Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [Water Resources Program]

Water Resources Research

The Research Agenda

The Water Resources Program is committed to establishing a robust research program that contributes to solving New Jersey’s water quality and quantity problems.  This commitment includes conducting basic and applied research that will increase the scientific knowledge base, as well as generating information that will be incorporated into our education and outreach efforts.  Through the integration of this research agenda with our education and outreach activities, we will increase public knowledge and awareness, change human behaviors, and ultimately provide New Jersey with the best management options to promote sustainable water resources for the State.

Research Focus Areas

Based upon our past eight years of program experience, the collective professional experience of our staff, and input from our stakeholders, the Water Resources Program Research Agenda has identified four focus areas for research. These focus areas address current water research questions that are critical to better water management in New Jersey.  Our focus areas are coordinated to address concerns regarding water quality and water quantity and the relation to various land uses found in the urban, suburban and rural landscapes. 

The research focus areas include:

 

Green Infrastructure for Sustainable Communities
Stormwater infrastructure has undergone a variety of design changes since its inception.  Initially used to drain runoff directly to the nearest stream, the designers of stormwater infrastructure began to incorporate flood control measures in the 1970’s.  These flood control measures were not originally designed to address water quality issues or promote infiltration to the groundwater but rather to detain stormwater runoff from large storm events to prevent downstream flooding.  Over the years, more efficient methods of managing stormwater to address quantity and quality issues have been developed.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines "green infrastructure" as an approach to wet weather management that is cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.  Green infrastructure management approaches and technologies infiltrate, evapotranspire, capture and reuse stormwater to maintain or restore natural hydrology.  Cities like Philadelphia, New York and Portland, Oregon are using green infrastructure to keep stormwater from entering combined sewer systems, thereby reduce the frequency of discharge of these systems to local waterways.  Suburban communities are using green infrastructure as a cost-effective, low maintenance method of better managing stormwater runoff.

Research is needed on green infrastructure to better understand the pollutant removal and infiltration capabilities of this technology as well as how to improve these functions.  Additional research must be completed to better understand how to use green infrastructure to cost-effectively replace our society's aging infrastructure.  Furthermore, the longevity of green infrastructure should be explored.  If today's concrete structures have a life span of 30 to 50 years, how long will a bioretention system last and will its ability to capture, treat and infiltrate stormwater runoff remain as efficient 20 years from now as it does today?

Literature Reviews currently available for the Green Infrastucture for Sustainable Communities Research Focus Area:

Experimental Designs currently under development for the Green Infrastructure for Sustainable Communities Research Focus Area:

  • The effect of rain garden design on nitrogen removal: a mesocosm study
  • Field evaluation of soil compaction in rain gardens

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Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources

The local effects of potential climate disruption are a large source of uncertainty in the water resources arena.  Atmospheric models have been created to generate predictions for large spatial areas, but problems have arisen when attempting to downscale these modeling efforts to generate predications at the small scales needed to make water resources decisions.  It has been suggested that climate changes will result in New Jersey receiving more rain in more intense storms separated by longer periods of drought.  Additionally, increases in temperature will occur and could have a detrimental impact on water quality and the aquatic communities.  These changes in rainfall distributions and increases in temperature have the potential to impact agriculture, drinking water supplies, local ecology and stormwater management on a local level.  Along with determining how sea level rise will impact our coastline, we must determine how our current stormwater infrastructure will perform with projected climate impacts. 

Spatial and temporal precipitation distribution scenarios need to be evaluated in the larger context of water supply and water availability.  Current stormwater infrastructure has been designed for historical precipitation patterns and it is unclear how potential alterations may affect flooding, waste discharge to open waters and groundwater recharge.  Study in this area will coordinate with the focus areas of Green Infrastructure and Watershed Modeling to achieve a comprehensive evaluation of potential effects that may be experienced. 

Literature Reviews currently available for the Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources Research Focus Area:

Experimental Designs currently under development for the Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources Research Focus Area:

  • The impact of climate change on Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for the Non-Tidal Passaic River Basin

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Ecological Restoration and Rehabilitation

Land development in the urban/suburban environment has proceeded with little regard to water resource issues.  At this point in time, land managers are challenged to restore areas that are negatively affecting streams, lakes and ponds.  Stabilizing soil and enhancing vegetation have the potential to address pollutant loading to waterways and create better infiltration capabilities.  Native vegetation that is properly maintained can also create habitat where much habitat has been lost.  Additionally, restoration of the waterways themselves becomes necessary to restore the appropriate habitat and water quality conditions to expand biodiversity in the degraded waterways of our State.

Studies in this area will explore the benefits of vegetated buffer installation and the ecological diversity of retrofitted stormwater management systems.  The effect of ecological restoration and rehabilitation needs to be quantified for the impact on improving impaired waters.  Additionally, legacy pollutants in sediments need to be understood in how they affect waters long after restoration.  This focus area will also coordinate with the Climate Change Impact on Water Resources as we explore methods to address future water resources problems with restoration of denuded systems.

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Environmental and Watershed Modeling

Predictive modeling with well established input parameters is essential to the sustainability of water resources.  Environmental and Watershed Modeling is integrated into the other focus areas of Climate Change, Ecological Restoration and Rehabilitation and Green Infrastructure for Sustainable Communities.  Well parameterized models hold the capacity to aid in adaptation to future scenarios and the benefits of proper planning.  Land use planning is an important aspect of this focus area as is developing quick and easy systems to collect data needed to conduct environmental and watershed modeling.

The Water Resources Program has evaluated the use of various lumped parameter and distributed parameter hydrologic and hydraulic models. These models have been used for watershed restoration and protection planning efforts, urban wetland water balances and analyzing the benefits of stormwater BMPs.  Future studies will continue to contain input parameters such as the spatial distribution of stormwater runoff and infiltration, as well as determining the pollutant runoff loading coefficients and source assessment from site specific land uses inherent in our society.

Literature Reviews currently available for the Environmental and Watershed Modeling Research Focus Area:

Experimental Designs currently under development for the Environmental and Watershed Research Focus Area:

  • Source determination of human-related fecal contamination: a tiered approach for watershed management

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