The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Draft 2018-2020 Integrated Water Quality Assessment Report is out now for public comment. The report is focused on the Upper and Lower Delaware Basin within NJ.
You can find the report here and view the release announcement here.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires that each state establish water quality standards to meet the goal to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters” (33 U.S.C §1251(a)). The water quality standards lay out uses for each waterbody, criteria needed to meet those uses, and protections for those uses.
While the water quality standards set a framework for healthy waters, many waterbodies today are impaired or threatened with new or increased sources of pollution. The CWA requires that states report on these impairments (Section 303(d)), the status of every waterbody (Section 305(b)), and the status of public lakes (Section 314). Collectively, these reports are known as the Integrated Report and they are required to be submitted every 2 years to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
However, before the reports are submitted to the EPA, they are released to the public for review and comment. This is a great opportunity for local groups and individuals to review their state’s assessment of their local waterways and to highlight issues or missing information.
Local watershed and community organizations are the eyes and ears for their waterways and they have an integral role in achieving the goals of the Clean Water Act. Anyone can submit comments! Whether it is a few sentences or several pages - if you have information to share, share it!
For those interested in reviewing and commenting, the River Network has created a guidance document for reviewing Integrated Reports. Find it here.
Before beginning a review, look up your local waterbody’s water quality standards to gain a basic understanding of the current designated uses. This will provide a bigger picture of the needs of your waterbody.
States should have an established mechanism to allow for public data submission for possible inclusion in the Integrated Report. They will often have an open call and some guidelines in place for what level of data they can accept and use for the report.
Read the linked document to find sample questions, definitions of technical terms and general guidance on how you can play a role in improving water quality in the Delaware River.