Water Quality

Stream Gauge

Stream Gauge

GSWA works to preserve our local streams and protect water quality. There are five main streams in the watershed — Loantaka Brook, Great Brook, Primrose Brook, Black Brook, and the Upper Passaic. Water from these streams and their tributaries, along with any rain or snow that falls in the watershed, collects in the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and exits as the mighty Passaic River near Millington Gorge. Over one million people get their drinking water from the Passaic River.

The monitoring work done by our “stream team” volunteers helped form the basis for the development of the first-ever Water Quality Standards for the Great Swamp Watershed, released in June 2002. These water quality standards help scientists, policy makers, and local officials protect the high quality streams from further degradation, as well as prioritize the more degraded streams for restoration efforts. The long-term goal is to maintain good water quality and, where possible, improve the overall water quality that sustains the flora and fauna of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and ultimately, the Passaic River.

Below are some of the water quality-related projects GSWA has recently completed and information on projects that are currently underway.

Completed Projects

  • State of the Streams — An analysis of past water quality data collected in Great Swamp watershed streams by GSWA and previously by the Ten Towns Committee. Data has been analyzed for trends to see what the health of our streams is now compared to the past. This comprehensive report includes chemical and biological data, and will allow us to better focus our restoration and education efforts on pollutants and locations where it is most needed.
  • Adopt-A-Stream — This program involves intensively studying one stream in the watershed for three years to collect baseline data on water quality, with a goal of restoration. Loantaka Brook, the first stream in the watershed to be adopted, was monitored 2005-2007. A final report of the monitoring results was published in 2008. Great Brook was monitored in 2008-2010, and the final report was published in 2011. The Passaic River is currently being monitored under this program.
  • Silver Brook Watershed Management Plan — The Silver Brook, a tributary of Great Brook, flows through our Conservation Management Area (CMA). Monitoring by GSWA staff and Stream Team volunteers showed some degradation of the stream channel and water quality as Silver Brook flows through the CMA, so we set out to find out how to protect the stream. The streams in the Silver Brook subwatershed were assessed by Stream Team volunteers and consultants from AKRF Consulting to learn more about the characteristics of the Silver Brook subwatershed and highlight areas in need of restoration. This management plan highlights those findings and led to the Silver Brook Riparian Buffer Restoration project.
  • Silver Brook Riparian Buffer Restoration — GSWA partnered with local landowners to implement one recommendation in the Silver Brook Watershed Management Plan, installing vegetated stream buffers in areas where the buffer previously had sparse vegetation or turf grass. With a grant from the Watershed Institute, GSWA planted buffers at three locations: the Harding Land Trust property off James St., Bayne Park, and the Church of Christ the King. The three buffers, all in Harding Township, were planted between 2010 and 2012 and function by slowing down and absorbing stormwater runoff before it enters Silver Brook and its tributaries.

Ongoing Projects

  • Adopt-Upper-Passaic — The third stream included in the Adopt-A-Stream program, GSWA is studying the Passaic River as it flows through the Great Swamp watershed. Six sampling sites are located on the main stem of the Upper Passaic River and two tributaries. Quarterly monitoring began in February 2011 and will conclude in November 2013. An interim report (pdf) details monitoring results through May 2012.
  • Seton Hackney Stables — We have almost completed a $300,000 remediation plan, funded by EPA through the DEP, at Seaton Hackney Stables. The facility, owned by Morris County Park Commission, was a source of bacteria, nutrient, and sediment pollution into adjacent Loantaka Brook during precipitation events. To reduce stormwater runoff from the property into the stream, ponies have been relocated further away from the stream, a new paddock has been created, detention basins constructed, and water has been rerouted. Working with PSEG, over 450 trees and hundreds of shrubs have been planted along the stream, helping filter the animal waste and other contaminants before they reach the stream.  Other partners in this project include the Morris County Park Commission, Princeton Hydro as environmental stormwater consultants, Rutgers Equine Science Center, and the Seaton Hackney Stables concessioner.
  • Stream Cleanups — GSWA has been conducting an annual stream cleanup every spring since 2007. From 2007 through 2011, these cleanups took place at Kitchell Pond in Loantaka Brook Reservation. Each year, volunteers found successively less trash until 2012, when there was not enough trash around Kitchell Pond to hold our cleanup there. This truly shows the success these cleanups have had on the area. For 2012, we changed the cleanup to a Stream Cleanup and Enhancement and moved upstream along Loantaka Brook next to Seton Hackney Stables. In addition to picking up trash, volunteers focused their efforts on removing vines and invasive plants, and planting native trees along the bank of Loantaka Brook. These trees will help stabilize the streambank and will slow down and absorb stormwater runoff before it goes into the stream.
  • Annual Macroinvertebrate Survey — Since 2000, Dr. Lee Pollock, Drew University Professor Emeritus, has been studying the macroinvertebrate communities found at 17 sites throughout the watershed. Macroinvertebrates, or small spineless aquatic animals (such as mollusks, worms, and insect larvae), have different levels of tolerance to water pollution. The types and numbers of macroinvertebrates at a site can indicate the quality of the water there. Dr. Pollock has prepared a comprehensive report on his 2011 findings, as well as a short summary of findings at each of the sampling sites, and a presentation about his findings. Past reports can be found on the website for the Ten Towns Committee) or by contacting Laura Kelm, GSWA Director of Water Quality Programs, at lkelm@greatswamp.org or 973-538-3500, ext. 16.


Stream Monitoring
SWaMP program
Stormwater Runoff
Millington Gorge River Flow Gauge
Water Quality Publications
Great Swamp Watershed Report Card
New Jersey American Water Report on Lead in Tap Water