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Why is watershed management important?

Management watershed
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Why is watershed management important?

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New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country. One million additional people are expected in the next 20 years. Sources for new development of surface water supplies are extremely limited. Our current reservoirs and drinking water supplies are irreplaceable. We need to protect, and in other cases, restore quality in our state’s waters. Development of a comprehensive Watershed Management Plan is key to that process. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) recognizes that non-point source pollution, water withdrawals and land uses were creating new management issues that could not be addressed by regulatory programs alone. The State of NJ determined that a comprehensive watershed management process would be the most efficient means to address these issues. What is a watershed approach? A coordinating framework that effectively protects and restores aquatic ecosystems and protects human health.

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A watershed is a geographic area draining to a common stream, lake or river. Watersheds are delineated by topography. To determine the boundaries of a watershed ask the question: “if a drop of rain lands at a particular location, which way will it go?” Watershed Management is an iterative process of integrated decision-making regarding uses and modifications of lands and waters within a watershed. This process provides a chance for stakeholders to balance diverse goals and uses for environmental resources, and to consider how their cumulative actions may affect long-term sustainability of these resources. The guiding principles of the process are partnerships, geographic focus, and sound management (strong science and data). Human modifications of lands and waters directly alter delivery of water, sediments, and nutrients, and thus fundamentally alter aquatic systems. People have varying goals and values relative to uses of local land and water resources.

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In the most general term watershed management is important for the improvement and maintenance of good water quality in our watershed. In the recent years the water quality standards have come under stress due to increasing population, depleting water resources, bad management practices. Addressing all the issues that concerns the water resources of our watershed in any way come under the watershed management strategy.

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Activities of all land uses within watersheds impact the water quality of down gradient water bodies. Point and nonpoint sources of pollution in a watershed contribute nutrients, bacteria, and chemical contaminants to U.S. waterways. Watershed management encompasses all the activities aimed at identifying sources and minimizing contaminants to a water body from its watershed. The federal Clean Water Act requires each state to conduct water quality assessments to determine whether its streams, lakes and estuaries are sufficiently “healthy” to meet their designated uses, i.e., drinking, shellfishing, or recreation. A water body that does not meet its designated use is defined as “impaired” and added to a list of impaired waters, also known as the 303(d) List. Each state is required to develop TMDLs, the maximum amount of a specific pollutant a water body can accommodate without causing the water body to become unable to serve its beneficial use, for all water bodies on its 303(d) List.

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Runoff from rainwater or snowmelt can contribute significant amounts of pollution into the lake or river. Watershed management helps to control pollution of the water and other natural resources in the watershed by identifying the different kinds of pollution present in the watershed and how those pollutants are transported, and recommending ways to reduce or eliminate those pollution sources. All activities that occur within a watershed will somehow affect that watersheds natural resources and water quality. New land development, runoff from already-developed areas, agricultural activities, and household activities such as gardening/lawn care, septic system use/maintenance, water diversion and car maintenance all can affect the quality of the resources within a watershed. Watershed management planning comprehensively identifies those activities that affect the health of the watershed and makes recommendations to properly address them so that adverse impacts from pollution are reduced.

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