Water in New Jersey
Residential, commercial and industrial development is the largest contributors to landscape change in the state of New Jersey. When buildout occurs in one region, development pressure begins in another, virtually insuring the Megalopolis concept of one huge urban corridor stretching between Boston and Washington D.C. Year after year, farmland dwindles, roads become congested, and more residents are left to compete for diminishing natural resources. Desperate measures and newer technologies are incorporated to replace poor planning and lack of vision on behalf of decision-makers caught between competing interests. When the long term health and wellbeing of the established population and the short term gain of a limited number of people compete for vital natural resources there should be no question who's interests should prevail.
Water resources tend to be taken for granted in New Jersey and why shouldn't they? Rainfall and runoff from snowfall are plentiful, averaging over forty inches per year. The state is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Delaware River on the other, with reservoirs containing billions of gallons of water, and large underground aquifers in between. It's hard to imagine a shortage of this abundant resource. Under normal conditions, this would be the case, but under drought conditions, as has been experienced throughout the winter of 2001 - 2002, the residents of New Jersey are forced to confront the stark reality of the situation that we may be entering into a severe water supply crisis. Mandatory water conservation and stiff penalties for noncompliance may do what preservation and antidevelopment advocates have been trying to do for decades in the state of New Jersey; wake up before it's too late.
The "Garden State" earned its' reputation by being a hospitable environ for the growth of native plants, as well as, commercial crops. When the competition for a vital resource is between residents and crops, human health and wellbeing takes precedence as a matter of policy. When this competition is between one group of residents and another group of residents, the only solution is to spread the resource even thinner often leading to inequities among citizens of differing financial or political influence. Decision-makers should have a zero tolerance agenda concerning any threat to our groundwater resources. This paper proposes that future growth needs to take into account our dependence on surface and subsurface water resources when planning developments and incorporating water resource studies into legislation meant to guide further development in New Jersey. The impact on citizens affected by new construction may not be felt until a crisis occurs and then it will be too late. With the remaining southwestern agricultural counties ripe for development it's never too late to change our vision of the landscape and refuse to gamble with the future needs of our citizens.