Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) was formed by the 2011 merger of two effective nonprofit conservation groups, the Upper Raritan Watershed Association (URWA) and the South Branch Watershed Association (SBWA), both founded in 1959 to engage New Jersey residents in safeguarding water sources and natural ecosystems.
URWA and SBWA were established at a time when few laws existed to protect clean water and air. The first Earth Day and the federal Clean Water Act were more than a decade away, and the Clean Air Act was several years in the future.
The momentum to create the two organizations grew out of a series of grassroots meetings in local living rooms. Our founders were concerned that the area’s natural resources were being destroyed by the fast pace of development, and they were looking for a way to preserve the local environment and quality of life.
Over the course of 50-plus years, URWA and SBWA successfully fought battles over issues like inappropriate land use proposals and threats to stream and groundwater quality. Both groups preserved key properties that protect rivers and streams, and both were pioneers in offering environmental education programs. SBWA’s signature Community Well Test Program was established to allow citizens to test their drinking water for contaminants.
In 2010, the trustees of the two organizations met to explore the idea of a merger. Combining staffs and resources, they concluded, would produce a stronger organization that could assume a larger role as an environmental watchdog and advocate for science-based planning.
Today, Raritan Headwaters is known as a state leader in environmental education and outreach, and for our work in water quality monitoring, ecological research, habitat restoration, land preservation and stewardship.
URWA was the first non-profit environmental group in New Jersey to obtain and implement geographic information systems (G.I.S.) technology.