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New Jersey Center for Water Science and Technology

Water quality at N.J. beaches has been remarkably good this year, data shows

Institute Director Dr. Meiyin Wu provides insight into the effects of the dry summer we’ve had

Posted in: In the Media

Orchid Road beach access
Jim Lowney | For NJ Advance Media

This week’s rain provided some reprieve but the summer has mostly brought on brazenly hot and dry weather, which could have an impact on water quality levels, officials said.

Drought conditions permeated at least six counties earlier this summer, leading some water companies to impose restrictions on outdoor water usage.

DEP officials said bay and river beaches, that don’t benefit from the natural movement of ocean beaches, can experience water quality issues during heavy rain.

Less rain this season has meant fewer issues, a DEP spokesman said.

In the past month alone, Cape May had greater than 75% below average rain fall, data from the National Weather Service shows. Many other areas, shaded in red on the NWS map, have rainfall totals that are 51% to 75% below normal, and areas shaded in orange have rainfall totals 26% to 50% below normal.

When you have less rain coming down, less water flows into the ocean from land.

Dr. Meiyin Wu

Wu pointed to what Barnegat Bay has experienced in recent years as an example. As urban development ramps up at the bay, which has about 2,500 stormwater basins, so does the likelihood that stormwater could run off hard surfaces of buildings and paved areas carrying pollutants into the waterways.

“The water coming from agriculture and urban development has a higher chance of bringing pathogenic organisms — or bacteria in this case — into the beach area and then mixing with the tidal water. So those inputs will be greatly reduced when there is no stormwater,” Wu said.

While that could be viewed as a positive, Muthukrishnan said some regions have experienced a “deluge of rain” which brings on pollution concerns of its own.

Besides leading to more flooding issues, Penn State Extension warns that too much rainwater can injure plants, compact soil and result in erosion.

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