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New Jersey Freshwater

From Forest to Faucet

Over 6,000 miles of rivers and streams run through New Jersey

Rivers, lakes and streams are our life lines - they provide drinking water for people, water for our crops, power for our homes and businesses, and create habitat for countless fish and aquatic wildlife.

Over 6,000 miles of streams and rivers run through New Jersey, and wetlands cover nearly a quarter of the state. From the cold, rocky streams in the northern portion of the state, to the naturally acidic waters of the Pine Barrens, to the warm rivers of the Coastal Plain in the south, stream types vary greatly across our state. New Jersey is home to some truly remarkably freshwater systems:

  • The Delaware River, the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi and home to annual American shad runs.
  • The Flatbrook River, a high-quality stream nestled in the protected lands of the Kittatinny Ridge, where Eastern Brook Trout seek refuge in its cold waters.
  • The Maurice River, one of the most pristine rivers in the Delaware estuary, contains a multitude of rare and endangered species, as well as, one of the largest intact freshwater tidal systems in New Jersey.
  • Small coastal streams in places like  Lizard Tail Swamp are fed by swampy headwaters that protect the Cape May peninsula’s groundwater supply.

Today, changes in land use surrounding freshwater systems and drastically increased human demand are placing stress on freshwater resources across New Jersey.

In order to for these waters to continue to support people, plants and animals, we must conserve the ecosystems that protect and supply these systems with the high-quality freshwater so critical to our survival. The Conservancy is working globally and across New Jersey to protect and restore the health of our rivers and creeks by addressing these critical issues:

  • Water quality: Changing land use, including paved surfaces, fertilized lawns, and actively farmed fields affect the input of sediments and nutrients into our streams and wetlands. The Conservancy works with private land owners to help them manage their lands in a way that is sensitive to water quality.
  • Headwaters protection: Forested lands at the beginning of rivers and streams protect water quality by filtering pollutants and helping water to seep back into underground aquifers. We actively work to improve forest health through protection, management and restoration of New Jersey’s forests, nature’s original water purifier.
  • Functioning floodplains: The lands surrounding a stream or river are critical for ensuring that it remains healthy over time. We use the Conservancy’s Active River Area tool to identify the lands that are most important for protecting or restoring the natural physical and ecological processes that allow these rivers to function to their fullest capacity. This approach helps guide our conservation actions on the ground, including floodplain restoration.
  • Connected streams: The ability of streams to flow freely from their source to a main river and out to the bay is critical not only for the health of the river, but also for the health of many aquatic species that depend on being able to access different portions of a river during different times of their lives. For example, anadromous fish travel upstream to spawn. We are working to help restore disconnected streams by removing blockages.
     

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