From: United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Published March 1, 2017 08:57 AM

40-year trend study finds signs of improved water quality in New Jersey streams

A USGS analysis of New Jersey water quality trends found levels of total nitrogen and total phosphorus, which fuel algae blooms, declined or stayed the same at most stream sites between the 1970s and 2011. At all sites studied, chlorides from road salt increased over that time.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has found significant changes in nutrient levels at many of the 28 New Jersey streams where water quality has been monitored from the 1970’s through 2011. A new USGS analysis finds that across the state, most long-term stream monitoring sites showed either downward trends in levels of nitrogen and phosphorus -  indicating some water quality improvement - or only slight variations in levels of the two nutrients. A subset of sites analyzed for chloride, or salt compounds, showed upward trends.

Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are essential for plant and animal life, and occur naturally in most New Jersey waterways. However, heavy nutrient concentrations in streams can cause increased algal blooms, taste and odor problems in drinking-water supplies, and low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, which in turn can harm aquatic life. In drinking water, high levels of nitrate, a form of nitrogen in fertilizer, can cause serious health problems for infants. Greater-than-natural levels of nutrients in streams can come from treated wastewater discharges and septic-system drainage, as well as fertilizer runoff from agriculture settings, residential lawns, golf courses, and construction sites.

 

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