In October 2006 the South Jersey RC&D Council reevaluated the most critical issues facing the region. This occurred at a Visioning session for the Area Plan. These issues are:
1. Agriculture and Urban Water Supply:
In the past twenty years the population of South Jersey increased by 22%. At the same time irrigated cropland acreage has increased by over 10%. With this increased demand for water, New Jersey has declared two Critical Water Supply areas. Critical Area No. 1, declared in 1985, includes portions of Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Critical Area No. 2, declared in 1994, includes portions of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem, Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
Recently additional areas have been defined to delineate water supply deficits during periods of peak demand.
The Council feels that water conservation will alleviate future water supply issues and has set up a sophisticated water conservation program for farms and suburban users based on EvapoTranspiration values from a system of weather stations.
Don't Drown your lawn! Water Wisely!
New Jersey communities experience more flooding than all but three other states according the Governor’s Flooding Task Force of 2006. This flooding has occurred in small watershed and large ones, such as the Delaware River basin.
The Council assists communities to manage stormwater by providing six minute rainfall data from their weather stations. In addition, the Council coordinates a group called the Delaware Estuary Levee Organization (DELO), whose main concern is to prevent a Hurricane Katrina like event in southern New Jersey. This group believes that there are over 35 levees in the area that protect close to 1000 residences and businesses. Many of these levees need maintenance. An inventory is needed to assess the extent of the problem and potential solutions.
3. Water Quality:
Many of the waterways in the state are considered impaired by the state. In response to the Clean Water Act, the State of New Jersey prepares a list of the impaired waters every two years. Called the “Integrated List” or the 303(d) list, waterbodies on Sublist 5 of the Integrated List must have a Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) set to address the impairment of the designated use of the water body. TMDLs have been adopted affecting over 40 streams and lakes in New Jersey. Many more waterways on the Integrated List and will receive TMDLs. As a result of the load allocations and waste load allocations within the TMDLs, actions must be taken to reduce the load of whatever stressor is causing the impairment. For more information on the Integrated List visit NJDEP’s website for the Non-point Source Program.
Many of the actions needed to reduce loads will require partnerships between government and non-government entities to bridge the gaps in knowledge, skills and funding. As a non-profit organization with members having a wide skill set in resource management, the Council offers support to those partnerships that will address water quality impairments in South Jersey. Projects in soil management, wildlife habitat management and land use all support better water quality in our region.
4. Soil Management
Compacted soils from development and farming do not allow recharge of groundwater as they do in their natural state. If these soils are improved to their predevelopment conditions and allow groundwater recharge, we will have more groundwater and fewer floods. (The water that does not percolate through to groundwater, mostly is stormwater runoff. This increase in stormwater runoff, causes more areas to flood.) For more on soil health, visit: NJ Soil Health.
5. Land Use and Management:
Development has put pressure on our existing agricultural lands, grasslands, forests, and wildlife.
The Council partners with agencies concerned with maintaining Ag viability and agricultural land retention. The Council works with the NJ Conservation Foundation in its efforts to develop Ag Enterprise Districts. The Council has hosted a bike ride called Tour Des Farms, where bike riders visit area farms. Riders can purchase farm products and view farming up close.
The Council also promotes the use of BioEnergy crops. The Council coordinates a team of wildlife conservation groups called Team Habitat. Team Habitat has installed hundreds of acres of ground nesting bird habitat and plans to improve thousands of acres more of wildlife habitat in the next few years.