Thursday, December 2, 2010

rain, rain

In this field, every time it rains (at least an inch of rain), we've got projects and sites to visit. And yesterday, it rained, so out we went. I do enjoy donning my knee-high rubber boots, and this gives me the perfect opportunity.

We visit some of our rain gardens.... (below is one of the Van Derveer School rain gardens from a September 2010 storm)

we look for other potential problem areas...

and sometimes we take samples...

All of this gives us insight into what might be negatively affecting water quality and how we can potentially improve it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Raritan Rain Barrel Workshop - Photos of the Week!

Last Thursday, about 30 people gathered in Elizabeth Avenue Park in Raritan to build rain barrels. This is part of the ongoing Peters Brook Stormwater Reduction Project, which Rutgers Cooperative Extension is a partner. We made the news!

For more information about rain barrels, visit our rain barrel page.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Upcoming Rain Barrel Workshops

We (NJWSA and Rutgers Cooperative Extension) will be hosting three rain barrel workshops in the month of August! The popularity of the Somerville workshop in June sparked quite an interest, so we have expanded our Peters Brook project to include two additional neighborhoods (in addition to the initial neighborhood in Somerville around Walck Park): a neighborhood near Elizabeth Ave Park in Raritan, and a neighborhood just off of Foothill Road in Bridgewater.

The dates:

Raritan: August 19, 6-8pm at Elizabeth Ave Park
Somerville: August 26, 6-8pm at Walck Park
Bridgewater: August 28, 10am-noon at Somerset County Vo-Tech

If you are interested in one of the rain barrel workshops, please contact Pat Rector at

Read more information about rain barrels on our website!


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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rain barrels!

On June 10, we (along with Rutgers Cooperative Extension) held a Build-A-Barrel workshop that was targeted for a community along the Peters Brook in Somerville. The general premise behind the targeted community is that Rutgers (as well as us) are looking to quantify the effect of small best management practices--or BMPs-- (such as rain barrels and rain gardens) on stream flow. We're hoping that these BMPs will reduce the amount of water that reaches the Peters Brook, and in turn, will carry less pollutants to the waterway and reduce erosion due to high volume flows.

So we held the workshop, and about 35 people showed up, many from the targeted community, and 26 barrels were built. Nearly everyone that attended wanted at least one extra barrel, and many people walked by the park and wanted to join if we held another workshop. So, I would say that it was a success!

Here are some more photos from the evening (or visit our photo gallery for the complete collection!):

More information about the stormwater project on our Peters Brook page or you can read some of the press about this event on our News page.

We are planning additional Build-A-Barrel workshops to be held in each of the three Peters Brook communities (Bridgewater, Somerville, and Raritan). We are planning for August 2010. In the meantime, you can learn more about rain barrels!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Van Derveer Rain Gardens!

Last week, our staff, along with Rutgers Water Resources staff, NJ Watershed Ambassadors, Somerset County Park Commission staff, and students and staff from Van Derveer Elementary school installed two rain gardens at the school to add to their outdoor classroom.

Photos from Rain Garden #1


After soil amendments and a thin mulch layer

After planting!

Photos from Rain Garden #2


after soil amendments and thin mulch layer

After planting!

Things are very busy around here, so I will update soon with some more information about the gardens!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Photo of the Week

The fog this morning reminded me of this picture, which is from the feeder canal at Bull's Island Recreation Area, just north of Stockton, NJ. Photo taken October 2006.

Friday, May 28, 2010

rain gardens on the brain!

I have been spending the past few days preparing for our upcoming rain garden project at Van Derveer Elementary School in Somerville (part of the Peters Brook Watershed - WMA9), which we'll be working with the students to plant in just under two weeks. I was looking to take a picture of a rain garden nearby, so I went to Rutgers Water Resources Program website and looked up their demonstration gardens. I came across one at Hillsborough High School (which is within the Royce Brook Watershed, which is part of the Millstone Watershed - WMA 10), just down the road from us, so I took a trip over.

Upon further investigation, I learned that this garden was designed and constructed by an Eagle Scout and is maintained by the school's Special Education department "World Readiness/Community Work" program. I think that's really neat.

I liked the sign that they had on each side of the garden. It describes the water quality benefits as well as the habitat enhancement and native plant aspects in a clear concise way.

I can't wait to see Van Derveer's gardens when they are completed!

Also, we recently updated the Peters Brook page on our website, so please check it out!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thompson Park Rain Garden

On Tuesday, April 27th, a rain garden was installed in Thompson Park (Jamesburg/Monroe Twp), as part of the Manalapan Brook Watershed Protection and Restoration Plan. The garden was planted by 'students' of the Rutgers Rain Garden Certification Workshop.

The rain stayed away, and we ended out having some sun for our planting. Here are some photos of the garden and the planting event:

sand layer of rain garden during the week prior to planting

ready for the compost layer

volunteers planting the rain garden

finished rain garden, with soil erosion control blankets and geese deterrents.

This 1,300-square-foot rain garden, will treat nearly 13,000 square feet of parking lot at Thompson Park, before polluted water can run into the Manalapan Lake.

To read the full article or for more information: click here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

World Water Day

Today, we will look at water on a global scale because March 22 is World Water Day. This international observance grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This year's theme is "Clean Water for a Healthy World." About 396 trillion gallons of wastewater are produced each year. In developing nations, about 80 percent of that water goes untreated, and ends up waterways that people will use for drinking water supplies. This is as a result of a lack of regulations and resources.

All over the world, groups and schools are hosting events to raise awareness about water availability, sanitation, and hygiene.

Read more here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

In the aftermath of the storm...

If you haven't heard yet, New Jersey was hit hard this past weekend by a nor'easter that brought 2-5 inches of rain in many areas. Work in the water resources field makes you look at storms in a different way. I sat at my house on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, looking at hydrographs on the internet, wondering how our restoration project sites are doing, and the other places that I have been to around the area.

Hydrographs show the discharge (think: the amount of water) of a stream vs. time. Here is an example of a hydrograph from the Mulhockaway Creek from this past weekend:

The peak of the hydrograph lags behind the peak in rainfall. Where the peak is on the hydrograph (compared to the peak in rainfall), and how long the peak lasts depends on the characteristics of the watershed and the stream itself(some of which may include: slope, soil type, streambed sediment size, etc).

Hydrographs for streams that have United States Geological Survey (USGS) gauges can easily be found. If you are any of our project areas (Raritan Basin, Delaware & Raritan Canal, Manasquan), you can look up the USGS pages through our website.

If you are interested in other areas around the country, you can visit this USGS page and find your stream or river of interest by state.

So aside from spending time looking at hydrographs, I mentioned that we're interested in looking at our restoration site. Below is a video, recorded by our very own Rick Anthes, on Monday afternoon (3/15) at Hoffman Park in Union Township, NJ on the Mulhockaway (learn more about the Mulhockaway project here). The area he is focused on is the floodplain interceptor, which is used to slow down water before it enters the stream during high-flow events. Hoffman Park's stream restoration took place in the summer of 2006.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Photo of the Week!

Wickecheoke Creek, March 10, 2010
Photo by H. Barrett

The section of streambank that I'm standing on to take this picture is actually gabions, which were put into place as the streambank was eroding and had the potential to destroy the road.

Friday, February 26, 2010

To salt, or not to salt....

In the wake of yet another snow storm for Central Jersey, I feel constantly bombarded with road salt. I drive 33 miles to work each direction every day, so I want the roads to be clear and safe for my drive to work (or wherever else I need to go that day). I can't help but feel torn though, as I work in water resources, and I think about the other implications of road salt (not just the safer roads and high costs to municipalities and NJDOT). I'm talking about the waterways.

If you've ever been swimming in the ocean, you know that a mouthful of seawater does not taste good. There are plenty of aquatic organisms, including fish, that face this every time we get a snow storm and use road salt. These salty freshwater bodies won't have the same 35 parts per million concentration at ocean water, but it is enough to make a difference. Salty streams, rivers, and lakes can lead to contaminated groundwater (affecting wells), and also can affect public water supplies.

When I was a NJ Watershed Ambassador, I conducted one of my visual and biological assessments on the Peters Brook in Somerville just one day after a snow storm. We use macroinvertebrates (read: aquatic bugs) as indicators of stream health. The Peters Brook does not usually score well in this area for many reasons (urbanization, lots of impervious cover, etc). On this particular day in December 2008, I had found mostly tolerant species, meaning that they can handle some water pollution, but I had also come across a few sensitive species--meaning that they can handle a bit of water pollution, but not as much as the tolerant species (I found no intolerant species--which can handle little to no pollution at all). The odd thing was that the sensitive species, the sowbugs, were all dead. I've never had an entire group of macros be dead upon sampling before. The only explanation is that the roads had just been salted, and the snow melted enough to send some of that salt into the Peters Brook, which killed the sowbugs.

Safety is of the utmost concern, so make sure that your driveways, walkways and roadways are clear and safe. There are alternatives out there that have less of an effect on the environment. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are the most popular alternatives, which usually require less amount per area of application than traditional sodium chloride and they work at lower temperatures; however, they are often more expensive.

Check out more information on road salt from the Salt Institute or this article from the Star Ledger from Feb 15th.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Freshwater Fish Trivia!

It has been a very long time since I have updated the blog (and I have missed several weeks for the Photo of the Week).

While I work on finding a good photo by the end of this week, Ken gave me some freshwater fishing trivia questions!

1. Which type of Sunfish is common to all 50 states?
a. Pumpkinseeds
b. Bluegills
c. Redears

2. Rainbow trout are originally from what region of the US?
a. Pacific Coast
b. South West
c. North East

3. Which is not a typical food for a Largemouth bass?
a. Crayfish
b. Frogs
c. Bats

4. The world record Muskellunge with a weight of 69 lbs 11 oz was caught in which state?
a. Maine
b. Ohio
c. Wisconsin

5. Trolling would not be used on which body of water?
a. Lake
b. Stream
c. River

Good luck!

Answers are posted in the comments section!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Icy North and South Branch Confluence, January 13, 2010
Photo by H. Barrett

Monday, January 4, 2010

Photo of the Week

Raritan Power Canal, Duke Island Park, Raritan Borough
December 31, 2009
Photo by H. Barrett

Happy New Year!

Please check out our updated website: