Water Quality Monitoring
Optic coupler to receive data from temperature monitors in the Pequannock River
No environmental organization in New Jersey has accomplished more through monitoring than PRC.
Construction of water supply impoundments in the Pequannock watershed occurred more than 75 years ago, when environmental regulations were few and the impacts of these projects on other natural resources were neglected, ignored, or poorly understood. Consequently no provisions were made for continued minimum passing flows in these systems. Increased development and a corresponding loss of groundwater recharge has aggravated these conditions.
A result was the controversy erupting in 1994-95 over river flows and temperatures where reduced flows from the Oak Ridge Reservoir caused high water temperatures creating a major fish kill. Altough a temporary agreement resolved this immediate problem, we needed to do more.
To better gauge river temperatures throughout the Pequannock and Wanaque watersheds, we began an intensive temperature monitoring program in 1997. Since its inception, this program has been continually refined. At its height, we maintained more than 25 monitoring stations at various sites. Our rigid protocols gained us accreditation as a state-licensed laboratory for temperature data collection. Our data has been incorporated by the DEP in their analysis of statewide water quality for the 303(d)-impairment list. Based solely on our data, several river segments and tributaries have been listed as “impaired.”
Our analysis revealed the Pequannock to be an endangered river. Summer temperatures regularly approached the lethal limit for the resident population of wild brown trout. So, our goal became preventing practices that elevated temperatures, identifying lands and tributaries that provide cooler flows, and educating the public on why this element of water quality is significant. To resolve this issue, the Coalition provided the impetus for new state permits requiring minimum-flow/maximum temperature water releases from the Oak Ridge Reservoir and a guaranteed flow from the Charlottesburg Reservoir. These changes have accomplished wonders.
PRC has produced a guide to water temperature monitoring, available here on our Resources page. Also, some of the temperature data PRC has collected can be viewed on the EPA's website. Just click on following link: Visit the EPA website
In 2006 we added a second laboratory license for dissolved oxygen monitoring. This is another important facet of water quality and will help us to better understand — and protect — these complex river systems.
We also expanded our knowledge with a survey of local waterways using a method called R2CROSS. This method determines what water levels are needed in our streams and rivers to maintain ecological health. The results of the survey are available here.
These achievements have not gone unnoticed. For our monitoring work, PRC received the DEP's "Environmental Excellence Award" and the USEPA's "Environmental Quality Award". Few groups have achieved either one, let alone both.
Knowledge is power!