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  Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards

Surface Water Quality Standards - Nutrient Criteria

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) cites nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) as one of the leading causes of water quality impairment in U.S. rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Nutrients, primarily total phosphorus, have long been identified as the primary cause of over-enrichment of New Jersey 's freshwaters. New Jersey's draft 2014 Integrated Water Quality Assessment Report found that 31% of all freshwaters were not supporting aquatic life uses due to exceedances of the applicable numeric phosphorus criterion.

In 2001, USEPA developed ecoregion nutrient criteria under Section 304(a) of the federal Clean Water Act (see 66 F.R. 1671) and recommended that states either adopt these criteria, adopt their own numeric criteria, or develop numeric translators for narrative criteria, for all waters that contribute nutrient loadings to surface waters. The New Jersey Surface Water Quality Standards (SWQS) rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9B establish nutrient policies (see N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.5(g)) and narrative nutrient criteria (N.J.A.C. 7:9B- 1.14(d)4i) applicable to all waters. The SWQS also establish numeric criteria for total phosphorus for non-tidal streams and lakes (N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(d)4ii). Numeric phosphorus criteria for streams and lakes are used to establish water quality-based effluent limits (WQBEL) and TMDLs. In accordance with the national guidance, New Jersey developed a Nutrient Criteria Enhancement Plan in 2009 to refine the current criteria and help ensure that restoration efforts are based on water quality targets that are best suited to support designated uses across the various water body types. The 2009 plan was updated in 2013.

New Jersey Nutrient Criteria Enhancement Plan (2013)

The 2013 Nutrient Criteria Enhancement Plan sets forth the Department's approach to (1) understand the complex causal relationships of nutrient over-enrichment (i.e., accelerated eutrophication) and its impact on the support of designated uses, and (2) establish appropriate numeric nutrient criteria and/or translators of narrative nutrient criteria.

For more information, please contact Kimberly Cenno, Bureau Chief,
Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards at (609) 633-1441.

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Last Updated: September 15, 2017