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Water Monitoring & Standards


Ground Water Quality Standards


Nutrient Criteria (SWQS)

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (Department) has developed a Nutrient Criteria Enhancement Plan in conformance with United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) recommendations that all states outline their plans for developing nutrient criteria. 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.

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, or TP, have long been identified as the primary cause of over-enrichment (i.e., accellerated eutrophication) of New Jersey 's freshwaters. New Jersey 's 2008 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report found that almost 30% of all freshwaters were not attaining applicable designated uses due to exceedances of the numeric TP criteria.

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 criterion (N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(d)4i) applicable to all waters. The method to assess the narrative nutrient criterion is included in the 2010 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Methods (2010 Methods Document). The SWQS also have established 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 will be used to establish water quality-based effluent limits (WQBEL) and TMDLs until the Department determines that the phosphorus concentration in the waterbody does not cause undesirable conditions as described in the narrative nutrient criterion.

New Jersey has developed a plan for enhancing the existing nutrient criteria for freshwaters and developing new nutrient criteria for other (estuarine, marine) waters of the State. Nutrient criteria (including numeric criteria and translators of narrative criteria) will be developed to address and prevent nutrient-related use impairment in New Jersey waters. Nutrient criteria development requires an understanding of the complex causal relationships between nutrient over-enrichment, various response variables, and documented impacts on attainment of designated and existing uses of New Jersey waters. The Nutrient Criteria Enhancement Plan outlines the following steps to support criteria development:

  • Monitoring and data collection on nutrients and response variables;

  • Research of causal relationships for nutrients and response variables; selection of appropriate indicators of aquatic life use impairment;

  • Development of new assessment methodologies to define thresholds of use impairment based on ecosystem response variables;

  • Development of new/enhanced criteria; and

  • Promulgation of the new criteria through amendments to the SWQS and implementation of the new assessment methodology through the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Reporting process.

The Department held an informational meeting about the Nutrient Criteria Enhancement Plan on January 22, 2009 and accepted written comments until February 7, 2009, after which some minor changes were made before the document was submitted to USEPA for approval. USEPA approved the plan on June 18, 2009. A link to the Department's public presentation on the Nutrient Plan is provided below, along with a link to the Office of Science's Nutrient-Related Research Web page.

New Jersey Nutrient Criteria Enhancement Plan

New Jersey Nutrient Criteria Enhancement Plan Presentation adobe logo

Nutrient-Related Research

The Department has prepared the first annual progress report on implementation of the Nutrient Plan. The 2010 Progress Report (see link below) was submitted to USEPA in March 2012.

2010 Progress Report adobe logo

For more information about New Jersey's Nutrient Criteria, please contact the Bureau of Water Quality Standards and Assessment at (609) 777-1753.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: March 30, 2012

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