Samantha LaRocca, RHA’s Well Test Program Manager with volunteers from Readington’s WaterWatch Committee and Environmental Commission during the annual Community Well Test event

Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) works with many partners in our mission to protect clean water in rivers, streams and homes, but few partnerships have been as longstanding and fruitful as the one with Readington Township in Hunterdon County.

“We’ve been partnering with Readington Township since the mid-1980s to host Community Well Testing events, and their rate of resident participation is the highest in our watershed region,” said Mara Tippett, RHA’s Associate Director.

RHA and Readington have joined forces on a variety of other programs related to water quality, including stream monitoring, stream cleanups, land preservation and stewardship, and education. Readington is located in the heart of the upper Raritan River watershed, the 470-square-mile area that RHA works to protect.

  • Water quality – Each summer, RHA staff and trained volunteers visit river and stream sites throughout the watershed to determine whether the water is clean and free of contaminants. RHA has eight stream monitoring sites within Readington Township: along the South Branch of the Raritan River, the Rockaway Creek, the Holland Brook and Pleasant Run.
  • Stream Cleanup – Multiple sites throughout Readington are included in RHA’s annual spring Stream Cleanup event, in which groups of volunteers remove plastic and other trash from the township’s waterways.
  • Well Testing – Readington provides many volunteers to help staff Raritan Headwaters’ Community Well Testing days in the township. Residents who get their drinking water from private wells are encouraged to get their water tested regularly for common pollutants, including nitrates, coliform bacteria, arsenic and lead.
  • Education – For years, RHA educators have led programs on nature and watershed science for children in Readington’s public schools.
  • Sustainability Gold Star – Recently, RHA assisted Readington Township in its successful quest to become a recognized statewide leader in water sustainability.

Readington became only the third municipality in New Jersey to achieve the “Gold Star” standard for water resources set by Sustainable Jersey, an organization dedicated to helping New Jersey communities become more environmentally sustainable.

RHA staff members assisted the township’s Environmental Commission and Green Team in completing actions to meet the rigorous Gold Star requirements. Tasks included preparing a comprehensive account of water resources within municipal boundaries, offering well water testing services, removing lead from drinking water, and presenting educational programs for local schoolchildren.

“We’re very proud that Readington Township is so committed to protecting clean water that it made the extraordinary effort to qualify for the Gold Star award for water – and we were happy to help out in any way we could,” said Mara.

Holland Brook Riparian Woodland Restoration Volunteers planting trees

Readington Township Mayor Juergen Huelsebusch, who also chairs the Open Space Advisory Board, said his township is focused on the preservation of its natural resources and maintaining its semi-rural environment, which translates to preserving open space and farmland in partnership with conservation-minded landowners.

“Our 2018 open space goal included preserving an additional 3,000 acres of land by 2050, so that 40% of our natural lands would be protected,” he said. “To date we have preserved approximately 350 acres, all reimbursed by donations, County and State funding sources. These protected lands have largely been in environmentally sensitive areas, such as forests, meadows and watershed/stream corridors.

“As we continue preservation efforts, we need to steward our preserved lands to ensure that they remain protected and healthy and will look to partner with key environmental non-profits, such as Raritan Headwaters Association,” the mayor added.

As an example, Readington just received a $250,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection to plant 10,000 tree seedlings. “That now becomes a stewardship project where key leaders from our Open Space Advisory Board, Environmental Commission, and Readington Water Watch committees will meet to organize tree plantings,” said Mayor Huelsebusch. “I encourage our residents to learn more about such stewardship efforts and programs that are offered by the Township and Raritan Headwaters.”

“Our next significant joint program between Readington and RHA is the annual stream cleanup on April 15. I encourage our residents to participate and learn more through the RHA and Township websites,” he added.

Mara said she encourages other municipalities in the watershed region to follow Readington’s example in working to protect precious water resources.

“When we can partner on projects to benefit water quality and wildlife habitat, those partnerships always make the programs stronger and more successful,” she said. “The more hands on deck, the more we can accomplish.”