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Division of Watershed Management Programs

Water Supply Planning


The objective of statewide water supply planning is to make recommendations on the management of the State’s surface and ground water supplies. These recommendations are incorporated into the Statewide Water Supply Plan. This plan is mandated to be developed pursuant to the Water Supply Management Act (N.J.S.A. 58:1A-1).

The primary focus of statewide water supply planning is to make recommendations on a range of alternatives that should be evaluated to ensure that the State’s water supplies could withstand foreseeable drought and that aquifers are not depleted. Since it may take several decades to plan, design and construct a major alternative water supply, the Statewide Water Supply Plan employs a 50-year planning horizon, which projects when particular regional water supplies may need to be addressed.
The first Statewide Water Supply Plan was developed in 1982. As a result of this plan, the Wanaque South/Monksville Reservoir Project and the rehabilitation of the Delaware & Raritan Canal provided major supply sources. Also, the plan resulted in the Manasquan Reservoir in Monmouth County, and three major pipelines in the central Passaic River basin and Middlesex County, and the Tri-County Project, all of which provide surface water to replace stressed aquifer supplies. In addition, much is now known about the state’s aquifers and significant progress are in progress to protect these supplies as a result of this plan.

The first revision to the 1982 plan, the 1996 Statewide Water Supply Plan, was based largely on the successes of the first plan, while recognizing that projected needs for water supplies, development trends, and knowledge regarding ecological needs for water and water management concepts are changing. As a result the latter plan focussed on these evolving concepts and recommended improved water resources protection, water supply and water delivery management, and water conservation.

Water resources protection refers to placing emphasis on watershed-based pollution control and aquifer recharge protection. The Source Water Assessment and Protection Program has recently been initiated by various programs within the Department and is in the first phase of inventorying all potential contamination sources within a public well's contributing area (wellhead area) and upstream of surface water intakes and reservoirs. Once this is completed, the specific water source will be ranked with respect to how vulnerable it is to the potential contaminants. From there, protection plans will be developed by the Division of Watershed Management to ensure that the water sources are adequately safeguarded. In addition, aquifer recharge areas throughout the state have recently been delineated. Now, programs will be developed to ensure that activities within important recharge areas are appropriate, and allow for these resources to continue to accept suitable quantities of suitable quality water. Land acquisition will be an important component of protecting critical water supply lands.

Water supply management refers to balancing water allocations among water users and water uses, and improved coordination among water users to stretch supplies during drought. Water supply management is underway in several watersheds throughout the state. In these watersheds, the amounts of water required of aquatic systems are being estimated, and water supply plans will be developed to ensure that there is adequate water available for both human use and the natural systems. Efforts are currently underway in Ocean, Atlantic and Cumberland counties. In addition, the Department is in the process of integrating water quantity and water quality in regulations (Water Quality Planning Rule) that are being drafted. This is being conducted to ensure that our water supply withdrawals do not interfere with the assimilative capacity of our streams, rivers and estuaries. And, the Department requires all purveyors to develop water conservation plans that are implemented during periods of low precipitation.

Water delivery management refers to ensuring that water supply systems are capable of delivering sufficient supplies of suitable quality water to their customers. Water delivery management is conducted on a routine basis through the requirements of the Federal and NJ Safe Drinking Water Acts. Delivery systems are continuously assessed and, when needed, improvements are made through the Water Bond. In addition, the Source Water Assessment and Protection Program is requiring that all purveyors notify their customers of the quality of their drinking water supplies, including the quality of their supply during drought. This same program will ensure that public water systems are capable of adequately enduring the rigors of drought.

Water conservation has two facets. The first is ensuring that water is not wasted, while the second is conserving water during drought, as what we are focusing on now. Water conservation is carried out during non-drought years through incentive-based and education programs. The Department has emphasized awareness of water conservation in schools and promoting conservation landscaping. In the future, water conservation measures can be expected to accelerate through the watershed management initiative. And, during drought, various phases of voluntary and mandatory conservation measures are invoked to reduce stresses that accompany drought. As you know, these measures are being carried out rather successfully right now.