Updates from the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut Highlands

Water

The water resources of the Highlands region are an incredible resource of interconnected rivers, streams, wetlands, ponds and lakes. The region provides water for over 15 million people in NY and NJ alone. Wetlands and swamps like the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge and NY’s Great Swamp provide vital ecosystem services like storing water from flood events, filter drinking water of its pollutants, and serving as a haven for wildlife particularly birds, amphibians and reptiles. However, decades of development and pollution have gravely impaired the water resources of the region. Thankfully, the region has several greatly influential conservation organizations, and sprouted countless other local watershed groups. With the great expansion of land development in the region since the end of WWII, impervious cover has grown in a cancerous fashion across the landscape. Impervious cover prevents the natural filtration of soils, and increases the frequency of flooding event. Pollution becomes more concentrated and the impact of simple common rainstorms is exacerbated. The US Forest Service ranked lands across the Highlands for preservation based on their impact on water quality. Included in this ranking was an assessment of factors such as aquifer recharge areas, pollution susceptibility, groundwater and surface water protection zones, steep slopes, 100-yr floodplains, wetlands, Hydric soils, exceptional value streams, forested watersheds, impervious areas and impaired stream.

Facts and Figures