Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station | [Cooperative Extension of Salem County]


  1. Watershed Management Area 17: Salem, Maurice, and Cohansey rivers
  2. What are TMDLs, and which are in place for our rivers?
  3. How will the quality of our rivers be improved? Watershed management plans
  4. Category one waters
  5. Water quality criteria
  6. Helpful links


Watershed Management Area 17

Watershed Management Area 17 encompasses primarily Salem and Cumberland Counties and includes portions of Atlantic and Gloucester Counties. Major rivers in the area include the Salem, Cohansey, and Maurice Rivers, along with Alloway, Stow, Cedar, and Dividing Creeks, and tributaries to the Maurice River. Major land uses include agriculture, forest, and residential areas. Residential communities in this area include Vineland, Millville, Bridgeton, Shiloh, Salem, Woodstown, Pennsville, and Elmer.

External links.

Watershed Management Area 17, containing the Salem, Cohansey, and Maurice Rivers. (From NJDEP: Link [link exits rutgers])


What are TMDLs, and which are in place for our rivers?

Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) are calculations of the maximum amount of pollutants a water body can receive and still meet water quality benchmarks. Under the federal Clean Water Act, section 303(d), states are required to develop lists of impaired water bodies that are too polluted or degraded to meet their designated uses. States are required to monitor waters according to federal guidance, determine TMDLs for impaired waters, and develop and implement water quality management plans (WQMPs) to help water bodies attain water quality goals. TMDLs separate pollutant loads by sources—for examples from commercial discharges, urban runoff, and agricultural runoff—and then determine an allowed load allocation with the required reduction for each of these sources. States are required to prioritize water bodies and stream reaches for the implementation of WQMPs. 

Because the development of TMDLs and WQMPs are left to individual states, there can be variability in terms of who is responsible for their development and the details of the plans. In southern New Jersey, WQMPs are typically developed by Rutgers University or local soil conservation districts (SCD). WQMPs can also be developed by municipalities or watershed groups working with environmental consulting firms. The federal EPA must approve final TMDL documents.

Several TMDLs on several water bodies are established in our area (listed here[link exits rutgers]). Pollutants addressed in these TMDLs are phosphorus, fecal coliform bacteria, and total coliform bacteria, and there is one TMDL for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the Delaware Bay. Current priority watersheds in this area include the upper Salem and upper Cohansey Rivers. Water bodies may have impairments for other pollutants for which TMDLs are not yet developed.

External links.

Salem River downstream of Memorial Lake. For segments of the Salem River and tributaries upstream of Woodstown, a TMDL is in effect for fecal coliform bacteria, and one is being developed for phosphorus.


Watershed management plans


Category One waters

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) classifies certain water bodies as Category One waters on the basis of exceptional ecological significance, recreational significance, water supply significance, or fisheries significance. In Salem and Cumberland Counties, category one waters are most commonly designated on the basis of habitat for threatened species. This includes bog turtle habitat on parts of the Salem River and its tributaries; bog turtle habitat and triangle floater on parts of Oldman Creek and its tributaries; and freshwater mussels in parts of the Maurice River.

Category one waters on the Salem, Maurice, and Cohansey Rivers. (Click once to open in a new window, and then click that image to enlarge.) (From NJDEP, PDF [link exits rutgers]).

Beyond regulations that apply to all state waters, NJDEP has additional regulations to protect Category One waters. Large developments must maintain a 300-foot buffer and flood control area around the water bodies. In general, NJDEP's anti-degradation policy for Category One waters states that there should be no negative changes in water quality parameters for these water bodies, and that improvements should be achieved for those water bodies that fall short of water quality goals. New water discharges must maintain the water quality of the receiving water body.

External links.


Water quality criteria

Water quality standards for surface waters in New Jersey vary by the designated use of the water body (including trout status), the anti-degradation level of protection (Category One, Category Two, or Outstanding Natural Resource waters), and whether the water is fresh or saline.

The entire Salem River is designated FW2-NT (fresh water not designated FW1, non-trout steam), with the portion upstream of Slabtown Road with a further designation of Category One [FW2-NT(C1)].

The Cohansey River is designated FW2-NT/SE1 (fresh water not designated FW1, non-trout steam, and saline estuarine waters with shellfish harvesting as a designated use).

More information on stream designations can be found here [link exits rutgers].

Standards for specific constituents can be found here [link exits rutgers].

Excessive amounts of nutrients—particularly nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)—can negatively impact rivers and lakes. While NJDEP has both numeric and narrative standards for nutrients, the state has undertaken a nutrient criteria enhancement plan [link exits rutgers] to better relate nutrient criteria to the attainment of designated uses such as aquatic life, recreation, and drinking water.

External links.


Helpful links

Watershed Management Area 17

TMDLs and local water quality

Category one waters and anti-degradation

Water quality criteria