Issue #9           

Winter 2005           


The Basin Bulletin   
Newsletter for Stakeholders of the Raritan Basin Watershed    




River Monitors Learn About Health Of South Branch


On Saturday, January 15, 2005, South Branch Watershed Association (SBWA) presented the results of the 2004 river monitoring season.

A presentation about ‘Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Efforts in New Jersey’ was the highlight of the event, presented by Danielle Donkersloot, Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  The message was motivational and to the point.  Data collected by volunteer monitors in New Jersey is important and will be used by various organizations and agencies for everything from education, to stewardship, to regulation.  The amount of sites monitored and the frequency at which they’re monitored could not be achieved without the efforts of volunteer monitors.  There is just not enough paid staff in the state to accomplish what the volunteers are doing.  

This is the eleventh year of collecting data at 17 sites along the South Branch Raritan River and its tributaries for SBWA’s volunteer biological monitoring program.  Every June, trained volunteer “water stewards” collect a “bug” sample at an assigned site within the South Branch Raritan River watershed.  Volunteers follow an EPA approved protocol to ensure accuracy and precision in collection of data.  The sample is then sent to a certified lab for complete analysis.  Different species of juvenile “bugs” that live on the bottom of river can tell us much about the quality of the water.  Through the analysis of these “bugs,” each site is assigned a New Jersey Impairment Score of non-impaired, moderately impaired, or severely impaired.  Of the 17 sites monitored this year, 14 were non-impaired, 3 were moderately impaired, and none were severely impaired.  This is an improvement from the 8 moderately impaired sites last year.  "It is encouraging to see an improvement over the prior year's results," said Nicole Rahman, the Director of SBWA's monitoring program.  According to Ms. Rahman, "wide fluctuations in precipitation levels over the past several years have potentially impacted results."  Ms. Rahman indicated that this past year's monitoring was done under more normal conditions.

Now that SBWA has 11 years of data, it’s time to analyze it further and document any trends that are revealed in a comprehensive report.  They are currently in the process of figuring out who might complete the analysis and write the report, as well as what funding sources are available for this type of project.  Then the data can be used to help improve and protect the water quality within the watershed.  Don Einhorn, Executive Director of SBWA, said, "this data is extremely useful in gauging the health of the watershed."  "A comprehensive analysis will tell us what streams may be showing signs of stress.  It's not unlike having your pulse and blood pressure checked during an annual physical.  If one is off it usually means something is going on.  These bugs are the pulse of the watershed system, they tell us if we need to look further to determine what is causing problems."  According to Einhorn, this information can then be used to properly plan for how development is accommodated or curtailed and where restoration efforts need to be focused.

SBWA thanks all of the volunteers, monitoring advisory committee members, spring workshop trainers, and sponsors.  Without all of these dedicated people, this monitoring program wouldn’t be possible.

For more information about SBWA, or becoming a volunteer monitor, please contact Nicole Rahman, Program Director, at 908-782-0422, or visit SBWA’s website at


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