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Long Island-New Jersey (LINJ) Coastal Drainages Study

Back to the workplan Back to the workplan

FY1997 Workplan—Introduction

January 14, 1997

It is interesting how perceptions haven't changed much since 1894, just the wording --

"The need of wholesome water for household consumption, as also good water for use in the arts, has prompted many inquiries about the available sources from which steady and abundant supplies of such water may be had, and the large number of these inquiries has demonstrated the necessity of gathering all of the facts relative to the occurrence of waters on the surface and in the earthy and rocky beds under it" (from Cornelius Vermeule, 1894, Geological Survey of New Jersey, Report on Water Supply-- Water power, the flow of streams and attendant phenomena).


Since the time of Vermeule, the LINJ study area has grown to be one of the more densely populated areas of the country. The 1990 population of the 6,000 square mile study unit is more than 10 million people, concentrated particularly on Long Island and in northeastern New Jersey (figure 1) . There is almost two centuries of a strong and prosperous industrial economy behind this population that was largely centered around the ports of New York City and Philadelphia. There also is a very productive agricultural heritage around the fringes of these metropolitan areas and in the more rural areas of southern and western NJ and eastern LI (figure 2a). These fringe areas, however, are rapidly becoming urban and suburban communities (figure 2b). Currently, agriculture accounts for 12% of the land use in the study area. The remaining 88% is split about equal between urban and forest/wetland/other. There was a 9% increase in urban and subsequent decrease in forest and agricultural land uses between 1973 and 1990. The population growth for the same period was about 8%.

About two-thirds of the study area (figure 3) is in the Coastal Plain (CP) and characterized by flat to gently rolling topography of unconsolidated sedimentary (NJ and LI) and glacial (LI only) deposits, extensive aquifer systems, and streams dominated by groundwater discharge. The other one-third of the study area north of the Fall Line in NE NJ (Piedmont and New England provinces) is characterized by rolling to hilly topography of weathered bedrock throughout and glacial deposits in the northern half of each, fractured bedrock or valley-fill aquifers, and streams dominated by surface-runoff.

Study unit stratification was simplified by combining similar ecoregion strata to yield 3 primary SW strata (NE NJ, CP NJ, and CP LI) and 4 primary GW strata (bedrock NE NJ, valley-fill NE NJ, CP NJ, CP LI). Land use then becomes the primary differentiating substrata within each of these primary strata (see background sections for more detail).

Total withdrawals for water supply in the LINJ is 1,617 Mgal/d. Surface-water accounts for 37%, mostly in NE NJ. Groundwater accounts for 63%; 44% of which is CP LI, 37% in CP NJ, and 19% in NE NJ. Only 20 to 40% of the total water use is groundwater from "confined" aquifers, indicating that much of the water supply in the LINJ is SW or surficial GW and is, therefore, highly vulnerable to contamination.

Major Issues and Goals

The LINJ liaison committee identified two broad water-quality concerns in the study area, they are: (1) the effects of nonpoint-source runoff and, to some extent, point discharges on streams, lakes, and estuaries; and (2) the vulnerability of public and domestic water supplies to contamination from urban, industrial, and agricultural land use. Toxic substances (VOCs, pesticides, and trace elements) are of greatest concern, primarily because the current scientific understanding of processes governing the presence, distribution, fate, and biological effects of these contaminants is limited. Nutrient loading is perhaps less of a concern within the study area, but is still important to the aquatic health of streams, lakes, and receiving waters like the New York/New Jersey Harbor Complex and Barnegat Bay.

The large population, extensive urban and industrial development, and, in some areas, agricultural activities are the main causes of water-quality problems. The LINJ liaison committee recognizes that the NAWQA program can provide additional data and understanding to facilitate development of management strategies of these problems. For our data rich study area, we believe the typical NAWQA design strategies for occurrence and 'multiple lines of evidence' coupled with the urban comprehensive strategies and the use of some modeling approaches will be quite effective in filling in some important data gaps and, moreover, in developing a understanding of the principal sources and processes needed to address the issues. For example, we hope to build extensive SW data sets of nutrients, pesticides, and VOCs from temporal and spatial occurrence surveys of streams (IFS/BFS, synoptic, and coop) and extensive aquatic community surveys (synoptic and coop). The data sets will not only be useful in relating SW occurrence to land use, but we hope to tease out the major factors for differences in aquatic communities from these 'multiple lines of evidence'. We are also building an extensive data set for nutrients, pesticides, and VOCs in GW which, when coupled with source and fate studies (atmospheric, unsaturated, and flow path), will allow us to relate shallow GW quality to land use, identify sources for and estimate the fate of specific contaminants, and perhaps say 'what might be done about the problems'. We already have made significant progress in FY96 towards that end.

Analysis of Existing Information

Our retrospective analysis of available water-quality and ancillary information to date has produced 2 journal articles, 2 ACS proceedings papers, 2 approved factsheets, 1 factsheet through colleague review, 1 lay reader report through colleague, and 2 other USGS reports in progress. Because of all the past and ongoing studies in NJ and LI, we chose to focus on selected topical reports, preferably published as journal articles, that would advance our understanding of toxics and biology. Highlights of these efforts and expected dates of approval are as follows:

-- An analysis of organics and trace elements on bed sediments at 300 sites from NJ coop network. Two journal articles (Water Resources Bulletin of AWRA) and 2 factsheets are currently published on the-- (1) Occurrence and distribution of synthetic organic compounds on bed sediments of NJ streams and their relation to basin characteristics, by Paul Stackelberg. ( 2) Distribution of trace elements on bed sediments of NJ streams and their relation to basin characteristics, by Anne O'Brien.

-- A lay reader report summarizing what we've learned from the groundwater quality and toxics studies in NJ and LI. Report through colleague review-- (3) How do people affect groundwater quality? by Rick Clawges (est. approval- May 1997).

-- We have utilized GIS and other tools to assess loadings of N and P for streams in northern NJ, including mass balance calculations and regression analyses of withdrawals, interbasin transfers, watershed loadings (urban and agricultural), and point-source loads. We are developing a better understanding of the relative importance of water movement and sources (point versus non point) on water-quality in the highly urban NE NJ area. A WRI or journal report is being drafted-- (4) Factors affecting water and nutrient budgets of streams in New Jersey and Long Island, by Bob Reiser and Anne O'Brien (est. approval- Dec 1997).

-- We are currently using regression modeling approaches to relate measures of benthic invertebrate and possibly fish communities in NJ streams to land use and other factors. A journal article (or 2, if fish and BI are separate) will follow later this year-- (5) Relation of benthic invertebrate and fish communities to water quality and basin characteristics of NJ streams, by Jon Kennen and Ming Chang (est. approval- Dec 1997).

-- A spin off State effort will likely follow from our compilation of the NJDEP data base on benthic invertebrates (1100+ species). We are referencing/updating the list with the interagency master taxonomic list in an effort to help the NJDEP produce a State report on the 'Taxa of NJ.' Tabled information has been given to the NJDEP.

-- We have assessed a data base on VOCs and pesticides in 90 streams of Suffolk County. Data were analyzed from quarterly sampling for 13 streams and annual for 77 streams since 1987 for VOCs and since 1994 for pesticides. We have compiled 2 short papers on VOCs in the LINJ, one on the (6) Occurrence and distribution of MTBE in surface and groundwaters of NJ and LI, by Paul Stackelberg and others (accepted 1997 ASC Proceedings paper), and one on (7) Occurrence and distribution of VOCS in surface waters of LI and NJ, by Anne O'Brien and Steve Terracianno (factsheet est. approval- Mar 1997)

Information related to NAWQA can be obtained from:

NAWQA Project Chief, USGS
810 Bear Tavern Road, Suite 206
West Trenton, New Jersey 08628
Phone 609-771-3943

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