Learn about local water quality at Dec. 2 conference being held in Califon

Rutgers Professor Dr. Christopher Obropta is keynote speaker

CALIFON – How’s the health of the water, both in local streams and in underground aquifers that supply drinking water to homes?

Local residents are invited to find out at Raritan Headwaters’ annual “State of Our Watershed” conference, to be held from 8:45 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Hunterdon County Educational Services Commission’s Hoffman’s Crossing Campus, 37 Hoffman’s Crossing Road, Califon.

“Clean, safe water is critically important to the health of local residents,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, RHA’s executive director. “We urge anyone interested in knowing more about their drinking water, or water quality in local rivers and streams, to join us at the State of Our Watershed conference.”

The cost of the conference is $10 per person, which includes a continental breakfast.  Attendees are asked to register online by Nov. 23 at www.RaritanHeadwaters.org and pay by cash or check at the door.

Keynote speaker Dr. Christopher C. Obropta, a professor and extension specialist at Rutgers University, will talk about “Local Water Champions: Changing the World One Drop at a Time.”  The talk will focus on the importance of “local champions” in promoting green infrastructure projects. These passionate individuals are helping their communities by identifying projects, gaining local government support and funding, and rallying the volunteers to do the work.

 “We at Raritan Headwaters are working hard to protect water in the Upper Raritan region, but without the help of the individuals willing to work tirelessly to make sure that a rain garden gets installed at their municipal park or a buffer is planted with trees along their local stream, we could never be effective on a large scale,” noted Dr. Kristi MacDonald, science director for Raritan Headwaters.  “These ‘local champions’ are the people who remind each of us that we can make a contribution to clean water and healthy ecosystems.”

Raritan Headwaters’ staff scientists will update the community on what they’ve learned about the region’s water supply during the past year through well testing and stream monitoring programs.

As part of her stream monitoring update Angela Gorczyca, RHA’s water quality manager, will speak about the importance of stream buffers in maintaining water quality. “Trees are our key partners functioning every day to protect clean water,” she said.

Raritan Headwaters has been working with local communities to plant trees along their streams, which helps reduce flood impacts, stabilizes riverbanks, maintains cool water suitable for trout, filters pollutants from runoff entering the stream, and aid in groundwater recharge, among the many other ecosystem services provided by trees.

Mara Tippett, RHA’s Well Testing Program manager, will present drinking water test results from the past year. The Community Well Testing Program bridges public health and environmental stewardship, which underscores the importance of green infrastructure projects on groundwater quality. The role of municipal partners and volunteers in making this program a success will be discussed. “Residents are directly connected to local ecosystems through the water flowing from their tap,” said Tippett. “We strive to highlight the connection between conservation and personal health.”

Bedminster-based Raritan Headwaters is the nonprofit watershed watchdog for a 470-square-mile region in Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris counties. Within this region – the headwaters of the North and South Branches of the Raritan River – 80 percent of residents, or about 320,000 people, get their water from underground aquifers.

For more information about the State of Our Watershed conference, contact Jody Marcus atjmarcus@raritanheadwaters.org or 908-234-1852, ext. 320.

Christopher C. Obropta, Ph.D., P.E. is the director for the New Jersey Water Resources Research Institute, an extension specialist in water resources with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and an associate professor with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the School of Environmental & Biological Sciences, Rutgers University. He has a doctorate in civil engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, a M.S. in civil engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology, and a B.S. in civil engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology. Prior to joining Rutgers, Dr. Obropta was an environmental consultant for 12 years.

Dr. Obropta has previously been a speaker on the topics of stormwater regulations and green infrastructure at Raritan Headwaters’ seminar series, Watershed Tools for Local Leaders, targeted at officials from the 38 municipalities in watershed.