News Feature | January 21, 2015

New Jersey Lagging On Long-Term Water Plans

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

njmap.reg

As other states update their water supply master plans, New Jersey appears to be stalling.

Colorado and Kansas are among the latest to renew their long-term plans, penning strategies intended to safeguard their supply decades into the future. But New Jersey is still relying on a document from 1996.

This failure "has drawn sharp criticism from environmentalists and others worried that New Jersey’s economic growth could be hamstrung by uncertainty about water," according to NJ Spotlight

Chris Sturm, a senior policy analyst at New Jersey Future, spelled out the problems with his state's approach.

“For New Jersey’s long-term prosperity, it is not only an environmental issue, but also a quality of life issue as well as an economic issue,’’ he said, per the report. “It’s definitely a concern."

Is Governor Chris Christie at fault?

"According to people familiar with the issue, a new draft water supply master plan has been sitting in the governor’s office for a few years without any action," NJ Spotlight reported.

Dan Van Abs, a member of the Water Supply Advisory Council, made the delay sound mysterious.

“At this point, nobody outside the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the governor’s office know the reasons for the delay,’’ he said, per the report.

Environmental regulators promise that a draft will be released eventually. Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection, said it could be as soon as this year, according to the report.

“It was never dropped, but it got put on the side burner when we had to put the state back together,’’ he said, referring to Hurricane Sandy.

Van Abs was unimpressed with that explanation. “It wears thin as an excuse at this point,’’ he said.

Although New Jersey has more water than many states, it still has some hefty challenges it must address. Problems "range from shrinking groundwater supplies in some locations, potential water deficits in others, and an aging water infrastructure that needs billions of dollars of investment," the report said.

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Image credit: "Antique map of New Jersey coast," WorldIslandInfo.com © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/