By Zeyuan Qui, Ph.D, Associate Professor
This U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) STAR (Science To Achieve Results) project introduces an innovative approach to water resource management and planning. Based on science of Variable Source Area hydrology, the project delineates hydrologically sensitive areas (HSAs), a smaller portion of a watershed that actively contributes to generating runoff to streams, in Raritan River Basin. The project assessed how municipal land use controls such as stream corridor ordinance, steep slope ordinance, open space and farmland preservations protect the HSAs from future urban development for water resource protection in three municipalities including Clinton, Readington and Tewksbury in Raritan River Basin and concluded the HSAs and subsequent integrity of water resources can be much more effectively protected by incorporating additional criteria into the implementation of such land use controls. The project also developed a natural resource inventory document for each of the three municipalities to be included in their municipal land use master plan. The documents thoroughly reviewed the state and municipal land use regulations and rules and discussed how they can be slightly modified to protect more HSAs from high-intensity land uses especially urban development. The innovative approach on developing and using information HSAs has also been applied beyond the project area by the project partners for water resource management and planning including conservation buffer placement, implementation of the River-Friendly Farm program and NRCS-approved conservation practices in Raritan River Basin.The project was built upon a strong partnership among several public and nongovernmental agencies including New Jersey Institute of Technology, The College of New Jersey, North Jersey Resource Conservation & Development Council, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and New Jersey Water Supply Authority. The project was completed with a close collaboration with municipal environmental commissions and planning boards and their private consulting firms if any in three municipalities. The project was funded by the EPA National Center for Environmental Research through its STAR program on Collaborative Science and Technology Network for Sustainability.