LETTER – DEP Water Plan: Drought of Planning and Action, Flood Of Spin


The DEP Water Supply Master Plan does not adequately address threats and problems when it comes to drinking water in New Jersey. This Plan is one of the most important strategic documents produced by the DEP.  It is supposed to be based on the most available science and data and is the guiding document for water supply for both quality and quantity. The plan should be called the State of our Waters because it is an assessment of our current water supply and our future water needs in New Jersey.  The Master Plan looks at both the threats and the options to ensure New Jersey has abundant clean water for future generations. However, the Christie Administration’s update fails to include issues with groundwater contamination, sea level rise and climate change. The first public hearing on the plan will be held today at 401 East State St, Trenton at 1:00 pm. Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director released the following statement:

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“New Jersey’s Water Supply Master Plan does not do enough to deal with water supply or planning. New Jersey has serious water problems and could be the first state on the East Coast to run out of water. This is because we have major issues with water quality and water quantity as a result of over-development and a legacy of toxic pollution. The DEP’s Water Supply Master Plan has come out, but it is flawed. The plan seriously downplays the severity of our problems without coming up with any plans or solutions to the issues it recognizes. This plan is flawed with missing and outdated data that is 20 years old, while playing games with the facts. With this plan, there is a drought of planning and a flood of spin.”

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“The DEP says we have water on paper, but it isn’t coming out of our faucet. This plan puts our water supply at risk by overestimating the amount of water available and using the wrong criteria to hide water deficits. The problem is even the report admits we are running out of water in certain areas, but they won’t do anything about it. Instead of allowing new water allocations and curtailing existing development, you can keep pumping if the water supply doesn’t exist. With peak demand and low flow conditions on streams, areas in Northeast New Jersey, Bergen and Passaic Counties, Union and Middlesex Counties, the Barnegat Bay area as well as South Jersey could run out of water.”


“The Christie Administration has failed to look at real science because this plan doesn’t consider climate impacts and sea level rise. There is nothing in the update about change of weather patterns as well as longer growing seasons that cause plants and people to use more water. The plan also doesn’t address the accelerated rate of sea level rise and salt water intrusion. For example, salty water from the Delaware Bay entering the Delaware River can enter groundwater, contaminating wells and will threaten water supply intakes in South Jersey.”

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“The planning horizon is only until 2025 so if adopted only 6 years, which doesn’t work because Water Allocation Permits are good for 10 years. We need to use a 20 or 30-year planning horizon to understand water quality and the need in each region. The update mentions the Pinelands aquifer study that Sierra Club helped passed the bill to get it done. While they are still talking about getting it done, they were supposed to have it completed by 2005. Meanwhile they have been over pumping our water supply, which has hurt the coastal plain and the Pinelands.”


“The DEP’s plan has not adequately addressed how much water we have in rivers and streams we have available. The reason is because they haven’t calculated the standard water withdraw in 30 years, which means they may be taking out water that could cause serious reductions in stream flow. The problem is parts of New Jersey like the Ramapo River have a ten-year drought every year. This plan recognizes our issues in northeast, but has no ideas or plans to deal with it.”


“DEP is looking the other way at issues with impervious cover. We have groundwater levels dropping throughout the state because there is over pumping of our aquifers causing them to drop. This is also caused by upstream development robbing areas of water and discharge from sewer plants. In 1996 approximately, 15 percent of streams were considered pristine.  Today only one stream system in the state, the Flat Brook, meets all the criteria of the Clean Water Act.”


“The biggest source of pollution we face is nonpoint pollution and we need to retrofit our stormwater basins to protect our waterways. We need at least $13 billion just to fix our combined sewer overflow systems, but overall we need more than $45 billion to fix our water and sewage infrastructure. The DEP talks about water conservation when 30 percent of our pipes are leaking and we need $8 billion to fix leaky pipes.”

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“In the last 20 years, six New Jersey reservoirs have closed because of pollution and thousands of wells have closed because contamination. This plan fails to mention that we have 3500 contaminated sites near drinking water wells. At the same time, our water supply rivers are too low and dirty because DEP has failed to clean up our waterways.”


“In the first plan, I was involved in recommending the protection of streams and limiting development near our waterways. Instead this plan gives the Administration cover for rolling back water protections such as the Flood Hazard Rules, Water Quality Management Planning Rules and Highlands Septic Density Rules. These rollbacks allow for more development in environmentally sensitive areas. When you read this plan is the glass half empty or half full? We don’t know and we may not be able to drink what’s in the glass anyway.”


The other two public hearings will be held:

·  North – Millburn Public Library, Millburn, Wednesday, July 12, 2017 3:00

·  South – Stockton University, Board of Trustees Room, Campus Center, Thursday, July 13, 1:00