Case Study:

Protecting Water Quality, Preserving Quality of Life in the NJ Highlands

Nestled in the northwestern corner of New Jersey lies a region unlike any other part of the state. This small area known as the Highlands remains relatively wild – and is critically important to New Jersey because it provides drinking water to more than half of the state's residents, the majority of whom live outside of the region itself.

Clean water that flows from the Paulins Kill, Musconetcong, and other Highlands waterways is vital to the economy of local communities – and is one of the main reasons the area attracts more visitors every year than Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon combined. Highlands creeks and streams are key tributaries of the Delaware River, so their water quality not only has a local impact, but also affects millions of people outside of the region, extending hundreds of miles downstream to the Delaware Bay.

While Highland waterways are relatively healthy, suburban development and agriculture are constant threats. Polluted runoff from farmland, impervious surfaces [like roads, parking lots, rooftops, and residential lawns], leaky septic systems, and illicit sewer connections impair water quality and affect aquatic life in the streams. The loss and fragmentation of forests compound these problems: fewer trees mean less habitat, more sedimentation, and lost opportunities for natural root systems to filter pollutants, absorb runoff, and help minimize floods. 

This video highlights the unique natural beauty of this treasured part of New Jersey, some of the stresses it faces, and the important work being undertaken by a group of organizations united in a common cause: protecting water quality and preserving quality of life.

To learn how you can do your part to support this important effort, get involved by contacting one of the organizations working in the region today:

Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions
Hunterdon Land Trust
The Land Conservancy of New Jersey
Musconetcong Watershed Association
The Nature Conservancy - New Jersey Chapter
New Jersey Audubon Society
New Jersey Conservation Foundation
New Jersey Highlands Coalition
North Jersey RC&D
Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority-Wallkill River Watershed Management Group
New Jersey Trout Unlimited

Support for this production was provided by the William Penn Foundation under the Delaware River Watershed Initiative. Learn more at

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This 3 minute version highlights the beauty of the Highlands and the key work underway to protect the region's natural resources, without all the detail.