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Long Island-New Jersey NAWQA home page Long Island-New Jersey NAWQA home



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Long Island-New Jersey (LINJ) Coastal Drainages Study

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FY1997 Workplan—SW Background and Perspective

In addition to the text that follows, there has been significant analysis of the water-quality network data and biologic data from LI and NJ. The major literature sources are as follows.

New Jersey

Concern with the availability of adequate water resources and potential degradation of these resources as a result of population growth in New Jersey dates back to the turn of the century (Vermeule, 1894), Although a network of stations for collection of streamflow data was established by 1921, comparatively little information on the quality of streams is available before 1945 (Parker et al., 1964). A summary of streamflow data collected 1921-1950 and existing water quality data is provided in Parker et al. 1964. In this report, water budgets, and rainfall runoff-ratios, and flood and drought frequencies were computed for 232 streams in the Delaware River basin and New Jersey for the years 1921-1950. Flow duration curves were compared among streams located in different New Jersey/Pennsylvania regions. For example, the Q90/Qm (the ratio of the 90th percentile discharge in cfs to the median discharge) was reportedly lower for coastal plain streams than for mountain streams. Natural water quality at selected sites is discussed in terms of dissolved solids and electrical conductivity, composition of dissolved solids, salinity, temperature, and suspended sediment. Pollution is measured as dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen demand. Relations between dissolved solid concentrations and discharge were compared among coastal plain and mountain streams. In Coastal Plain streams dissolved solids increase with discharge, whereas in mountain streams, dissolved solids decrease with discharge.

In 1962, the USGS and the State of New Jersey agreed to cooperate in a long-term program to assess the water quality of streams throughout the State. One of the first products was a report summarizing data collected by the State Department of Health and others since 1950 and a statewide water-quality reconnaissance conducted in 1962-63. The report describes the water-quality characteristics of streams in the five physiographic provinces of NJ based on specific conductance, dominant major ions, relations of dissolved solids to discharge, and sediment loads (Anderson and George, 1966).

Results show how specific conductance increases with discharge in coastal plain streams and decreases with discharge in mountain streams. In the Valley and Ridge physiographic province, calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate are the dominant ions; in the Piedmont physiographic province calcium, magnesium, and sulfate are the dominant ions, whereas in the Coastal Plain, sodium, potassium, sulfate and chloride are the dominant ions. The dominant ions in each physiographic province reflect the reactivity of the underlying bedrock, and the proximity of the streams to the coast and industry (Figure from Anderson and George, 1966.)

Seasonal variability in concentrations of dissolved solids was observed. High concentrations of dissolved solids were measured July through September, typically the low flow period of the year; low concentrations of dissolved solids were measured March through May, typically the high flow period of the year.

The lowest sediment yields in New Jersey are measured in streams in the New England physiographic province, north of the extent of Wisconsin glaciation and in the Valley and Ridge province. Highest sediment yields are measured in streams in the New England province, north of the extent of Wisconsin glaciation and in the Piedmont province.

In the 1960s through 1976, water quality samples were collected at a variable number of stations each year, ranging from 33 in 1967 to a high of 238 in 1976 (figure of current and discontinued water quality stations in New Jersey). Several reports were published summarizing water quality in the Passaic River and Raritan River Basins, the largest river basins in New Jersey, before major point source pollution control legislation was passed (Anderson and George, 1973, Anderson and Faust, 1974). A fixed-site USGS/NJDEP Ambient Water-Quality Monitoring Network (QW Network) was finally established in 1976.

Data collected as part of the cooperative network are published every year in Water Resources Data of New Jersey Surface water (Bauersfield and others, 19)and every other year since 1984 in The New Jersey State water quality inventory reports (NJDEP 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992). These reports characterize all major river basins and tributaries in New Jersey, list drainage areas, populations centers, qualitative land use, major impoundments and point sources, and compare DO, bacteria, nutrients, ammonia, and metals at the QW Network stations using a Water Quality Index (WQI). the stations sampled remain consistent from year to year, however, many have been discontinued based upon statistical evaluation (Robinson, written communication); currently, the QW Network consists of 79 sites sampled five times a year for dissolved oxygen, bacteria, nutrients, ammonia, dissolved solids and metals (or figure of sampling sites here?). A history of the QW Network since 1976 summarizing the changes in the sites in the network, sampling frequencies, sampling procedures, constituents sampled, and laboratories is in progress (Pustay, written communication).

Data collected as part of the cooperative network have been analyzed more quantitatively for several major river basins in New Jersey including the Passaic River (NJDEP, 1987), the Great Egg Harbor River (Watt and Johnson, 1992), Tom's River (Watt et al., 1994) and Mullica River (Johnson and Watt, 1995). Each of these reports include time series plots, summary statistics, box plots and stiff diagrams, and an evaluation of the water resources in the basin.

Cooperative network data have also been used to answer other water quality questions of state-wide interest. Hay and Campbell (1990) analyzed trends in water quality data from 1980-96 for 86 sites and from 1976-86 for 69 of these sites using the Seasonal Kendall Tau and Censored Data Regression techniques. In general, downtrends were observed in trace elements and uptrends were observed in dissolved oxygen, fecal streptococci, specific conductivity, calcium, magnesium, sodium and chloride. Downtrends were observed in total organic nitrogen for the seven year study period only. Results of the analysis for other nutrients was equivocal. For example, downtrends were observed in total nitrogen at more sites in the seven year study period and uptrends were observed in total nitrogen at more sites in the eleven year study period.

Robinson et al. (199x) related trends observed by Hay and Campbell (1990) to basin characteristics using contingency tables. This report provides land use, population, point source, road deicing material use, fertilizer application and soil erosion rates for the 60 basins located entirely in New Jersey. In general results showed uptrends in pH, sodium, magnesium and chloride were associated with urban land use. Uptrends in pH, sodium, and chloride were also associated with basins having the highest water yields. Uptrends in fecal streptococci, ammonia, downtrends in pH, were associated with agricultural land use. Uptrends in sodium and chloride were associated with road salt application rate in the basin. The authors note a lack of association between nutrient trends and basin characteristics.

In addition the trend analyses, cooperative network data have also been modeled based on basin characteristics. Smith et al. (1993) developed a database of basin characteristics associated with 7,123 stream reaches in New Jersey using geographic information systems (GIS). They used digital elevation data to define stream reaches throughout the State and intersected this drainage network with population, landuse, and point source coverages so that this information was available for each of the 7,123 basins. Regression relations were developed relating basin characteristics, incorporating distance weighted decay, to total phosphorous concentrations at the cooperative network sites. The same data base and a similar approach was used to analyze the presence and distribution of organic contaminants and trace elements in two of the LINJ NAWQA retrospective reports accepted for publication in the Water Resources Bulletin. In addition to computing summary statistics and analysis of variance (ANOVA) for major drainage areas and physiographic provinces in New Jersey, the presence or absence of organic contaminants and trace element was related to basins characteristics.

Instream loads of nutrients and total organic carbon were also investigated using cooperative network data. Price et al., (1995) analyzed network data (BOD, Ptot, Ntot, TOC, 1985-90) for 9 water quality sites in the Musconetcong, Rockaway and Whippany River Basins and compared loads to those of permitted point sources in each of the basins. They also used load-streamflow relations to evaluate the relative contributions of inputs from point and non-point sources. The importance of point source loads varied among the basins and between stations within the same basin. In the Musconetcong River basin, permitted source load is lower than the median instream load, but in the Whippany River basin, the permitted source load is closer to the median instream load, particularly for total phosphorous. A strong relation between instantaneous discharge and stream load in pounds per day indicates nonpoint sources contribute significantly to the load, whereas a constant instream load with increasing instantaneous discharge indicates point sources contribute significantly to the load. The latter relation was observed at more of the downstream sites.

This approach is used as part of an ongoing effort to develop a simple method for evaluating the relative importance of point source and non-point sources on stream water quality, Work is currently underway (State/Fed Coop study - Water-quality characteristics of NJ streams) to determine relations between concentration (DO, fecal coliform, hardness, Na, alkalinity, Cl, nutrients, ammonia, TOC, suspended sediment, boron and lead) and time, concentration and discharge, and loading and instantaneous discharge for all QW Network stations in NJ. The relation between load and discharge and concentration and flow for 15 parameters is defined statistically. For each site trends are examined in high flow and low flow samples separately. Increasing trends in high flow samples indicate an increase in contribution from non point sources, whereas an increasing trend in the low flow samples indicate an increase in contribution from point sources. In addition, diagrams are presented that show the strength of these relations (relative slopes of total nitrogen load in streamflow) in an entire basin.

To further evaluate the importance of point and non-point sources, a LINJ NAWQA retrospective study is in progress to analyze nutrient mass balance in the major basins of the study unit. An accounting spreadsheet was compiled including point source discharges, withdrawals and gaging station flow in downstream order for the Passaic, Raritan and Hackensack River basins, 1986-88. Point source nitrogen and phosphorous totals were calculated using the NOAA data base of discharge concentrations. Average annual nutrient loads at all water quality stations in the study unit were calculated using ESTIMATOR and MOVE1. The GIS data base of basin characteristics will be used to better evaluate and quantify the relative importance of point and nonpoint sources.

The work described above addresses the occurrence, distribution, loads and trends in nutrient concentrations (Table SW1) with the exception of the analysis of the distribution of trace elements and organic contaminants in bed sediments which was a major part of our analysis of existing data. Otherwise, very little information regarding the distribution and occurrence of toxics, such as pesticides and VOCs in surface water, is available. Ivahnenko and Buxton (1994) conducted a reconnaissance study of six drainage basins in NJ to determine the presence of pesticides from agricultural runoff in surface water. Drainage basins potentially affected by pesticide application and used for public supply were identified using GIS. Six basins were selected as most susceptible to pesticide contamination including the Lower Mine Hill Reservoir, South Branch of the Raritan River, Main Branch of the Raritan River, Millstone River, Manasquan River and Matchaponix Brook. All but the Lower Mine Hill Reservoir basin lie within the LINJ study unit. Twenty-eight surface-water samples were collected as part of the reconnaissance sampling, including 6 samples from water-treatment facilities and quality control samples. Although atrazine and metolachlor were detected in 86% of the samples, alachlor in 55% of the samples, and diazinon in 45% of the samples, all but one concentration measured during the study were less than the USEPA's recommended Lifetime Health Advisory Limit.

In a follow up study of the Millstone and Shark River basins (Buxton and Dunne, 1993), a pesticide vulnerability index based on percentage of agricultural land in the basin, pounds of pesticides applied per square mile and soil surface loss potential was compared with water-quality data. In eight baseflow and 24 stormflow samples of the Millstone River, low concentrations of alachlor, atrazine, metolachlor and simazine were measured. Higher concentrations were measured in stormflow samples. No pesticides were detected in 8 baseflow and 13 stormflow samples of Shark River.

VOC data for surface waters in NJ is limited to a 14 site synoptic survey in spring of 1994 on the Hackensack River and 11 samples collected during field reconnaissance as part of the LINJ NAWQA. These results are summarized in a fact sheet in editorial review.

Long Island

In New Jersey, many people depend on water supplied from the surface waters in the basins in which they reside. Residents of Long Island in Brooklyn and Queens counties obtain their drinking water from surface water in upstate New York, whereas people in Nassau and Suffolk counties depend entirely upon the underlying groundwater reservoir for their fresh-water supply. Early surface water studies on Long Island investigated the effects of urbanization, particularly increased impermeable area, on stream runoff and recharge to the groundwater reservoir (Sawyer, 1963, Seaburn, 1969). Based on a hydrologic comparison of East Meadow Brook, located in a watershed affected by urbanization and Mill Neck Creek, located in an unaffected watershed, for the period 1952-60, Sawyer (1963) calculated 2% or 63,000 gallon per day of recharge to the groundwater reservoir was lost because of the change in land surface. Seaburn (1969) related indices of urban development to increases in the volume of annual direct runoff to East Meadow Brook during the period 1937-66. In addition, Seaburn calculated that the average peak discharge of a 1-hour unit hydrograph increased from 313 cubic feet per second for storms 1937-43, to 776 cfs for storms in 1960-62. Rainfall-runoff analyses indicated direct runoff during 1960-66 was from 1.1 to 4.6 times greater than the corresponding runoff during 1937-43.

A 13 site water-quality network was established on Long Island through NASQAN and cooperative efforts in the mid 70's. In 1987, Suffolk County augmented the regular nutrient/inorganic sampling to include quarterly VOC and pesticides sampling at the 13 sites and annual sampling at about 75 other sites. VOC data for Long Island streams are summarized in a fact sheet in editorial review. Concern with surface water quality on Long Island relates not to supply but to the degradation of tourism and fishing industries and shellfishing habitat resulting from increased bacteria loads delivered to the Sound.

Several studies compared the quality of streams (dissolved solids, nitrate, detergent, temperature) in urbanized basins and less developed basins (Koch, 1970, Pluhowski, 1970, Koppelman et al., 1990), or streams in sewered areas versus non-sewered areas (Ragone et al., 1981, Reilly, et al., 1983). Koch (1970) compared the quality of streams in the sparsely populated Suffolk County to those in the densely populated Nassau County. Dissolved solids were higher, average nitrate concentrations 14 times higher and detergent concentrations 9-18 times higher in the Nassau County streams than the Suffolk County streams.

Pluhowski (1970) investigated the effects of urbanization on the temperature of streams on Long Island. Pond construction, clearcutting of vegetation from stream banks, increased storms runoff, and reduction in the amount of groundwater inflow were the factors that determined the significant differences in temperature among Long Island streams in basins of different degrees of urbanization. Streams draining urbanized basins were found to be 5-8 times warmer in summer than unimpacted streams.

Ragone (1981) compared nitrogen concentrations in groundwater and surface water from sewered and unsewered areas in Nassau County. Although no significant differences were detected in groundwater quality between sewered and non-sewered areas, nitrogen total concentrations in streams draining the sewered area are significantly lower than in those draining the unsewered area where 95% of the streamflow is thought to be derived from the shallow part of the upper glacial aquifer.

Prince et al. (1988) presented a conceptual model of streamflow generation on Long Island. Long Island streams are either relict glacial Outwash channels or recent erosional features that act as drains to the water table ad are fed by local shallow groundwater systems that flow above the regional groundwater system.

Much of what is known about surface waters in Long Island resulted from the Long Island segment of the Nationwide Urban Runoff Program (NURP, Long Island Regional Planning Board, 1982) and the Flow Augmentation Needs Study (FANS, Suffolk County Department of Public Works, 1993). The Long Island Regional Planning Board report on the NURP study includes an explanation of the history behind recharge basins constructed throughout LI. Results of the study indicate detention an recharge of runoff in dry streambeds may remove indicator bacteria. The FANS report published in 1993 indicates that the decline in water table levels and decrease in stream length expected to result from sewering are not yet observed--no significant differences were measured between groundwater levels in sewered and non-sewered areas. Work continues as part of the FANS program to document natural vegetation variation in quadrats in four stream basins representing different types of wetlands: Sampawams Creek, Carll's River, Carman's River, and Santapogue Creek.

A series of investigations on the effects of urbanization on East Meadow Brook (e.g. Brown et al., in review) and urban stormwater runoff (Ku and Simmons, 1986) have quantified sources of pollution. Ku and Simmons monitored 46 storms in five recharge basins in representative landuse areas for trace elements, nutrients, composite organics and bacteria. The metal and bacteria load were found to decrease through the unsaturated zone. As in New Jersey, most water quality studies focus on nutrients and bacteria and little is published on the occurrence of toxics such as pesticides, VOCs and trace elements in bed sediments.

Biological Monitoring

Biomonitoring programs were also initiated by the NJDEP and the NYDEC in the mid-70's in cooperation with the USEPA. In NJ, 31 existing stations in the USGS/NJ Ambient Water-Quality Monitoring Network were adopted as routine biomonitoring sites. These sites were used to establish baseline biological information and were supplemented with localized intensive surveys wherever NJDEP priorities dictated. Because of the effects of rapid development (point and non-point pollution proliferation), many of the original 31 stations became either inaccessible or highly degraded. The NJDEP needed an updated reference site database that was robust enough to use with either site-specific or watershed-based surveys. From 1989 through 1991, most of NJ was surveyed to identify 43 sites in 8 ecoregions that qualified as biological reference sites as part of the Ambient Biomonitoring Network (AMNET). In addition, an entire state watershed-based inventory was initiated in 1991 and by 1995 has resulted in a biomonitoring network of more than 600 sites ranging in size and impact (Figure ECO3). Plans are to sample these sites on a 5-year rotation. The AMNET now serves as a solid foundation for the statewide water-quality inventory (305B) and planning/management decisions involving surface water-quality standards and biocriteria (NJDEP, 1994). Similar to NJDEP's AMNET network, the NYDEC's Stream Biomonitoring Unit has been monitoring water quality in NY since 1972. This biomonitoring effort, was a follow-up to sampling conducted by the Conservation Department (1926-1939), that documented many cases of severe pollution in NY's rivers and streams. During 1972-1992 over 721 sites on 170 streams were sampled. Of these, 373 are continuous statewide monitoring sites that include 16 sites on Long Island and 7 sites in the Ramapo River that fall within the boundaries of the LINJ SU. NYDEC's Stream Biomonitoring Unit documents the occurrence of trends in water quality of lotic systems in NY with more than twenty years of data (Bode et al., 1993).

The LINJ liaison committee has identified a need to develop a better understanding of the effects of and processes associated with (1) inputs of toxic materials such as, trace elements, VOCs, pesticides, and other synthetic organic compounds, (2) nutrient enrichment, (3) sediment, particularly as related to the fate and transport of toxic materials and nutrients, (4) stormwater quality, and (5) interbasin transfers of water. They suggested the NAWQA study focus on relations between sources and loads of toxics, sediment, nutrients, land use, accumulation in bed sediment, bioaccumulation in tissues, effects on aquatic communities, and other factors.

In summary, experience in the district and liaison committee discussion indicate that effects of land use, especially urban, on water quality are the primary issues in the LINJ SU. Consequently, our surface water activities will focus on pesticides, VOCs, nutrients, and (to some extent) trace elements in the urban environment and how these toxics affect biological communities.

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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