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Bioassessment and Biocriteria Program Status for New Jersey: Streams and Wadeable Rivers

State Program Contact

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Exit

Water Quality Standards

WQS Information
The link to New Jersey's WQS that are in effect for Clean Water Act purposes is provided. These are the WQS approved by EPA.
The state of New Jersey provided information and links to sections of their administrative code on designated aquatic life use, biological criteria, antidegradation as well as technical support documents and information on its bioassessment and biocriteria programs. These are included for your convenience and may or may not reflect the most recently EPA approved WQS. The following links exit the site Exit

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Designated Aquatic Life Uses
  • Aquatic Life Use – General
  • Aquatic Life Use – Trout

The aquatic life use in non tidal freshwaters is assessed by evaluating conditions of biotic communities using metrics developed for benthic macroinvertebrate data, in conjunction with fin fish Index of Biotic Integrity (FIBI) data, while in estuarine waters biotic indices have been developed for the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary and the Barnegeteat Bay based on benthic invertebrates. All of these waters are supplemented with a broad suite of biologically-relevant physical/chemical data (e.g., dissolved oxygen, temperature, toxic pollutants).

Biological Criteria
__X__ Narrative, with numeric translators for benthic macroinvertebrate and fish indices
_____ Numeric
_____ No criteria

General Policy found at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.5(a)2 Surface Water Quality Standards (SWQS) (PDF) (115 pp, 710 K)
Water is vital to life and comprises an invaluable natural resource which is not to be abused by any segment of the State’s population or economy. It is the policy of the State to restore, maintain and enhance the chemical, physical and biological integrity of its waters, to protect the public health, to safeguard the aquatic biota, protect scenic and ecological values, and to enhance the domestic, municipal, recreational, industrial, agricultural and other reasonable uses of the State’s waters.

Antidegradation Policy
Use of biocriteria or bioassessments not included in antidegradation policy (PDF) (115 pp, 710 K) (SWQS N.J.A.C. 7.9B-1.5d)

Biological Assessment

What biological assemblages are used in the bioassessment program?
Benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, crayfish, and amphibians

Are bioassessments used to support 303(d) listings? 
Yes. Listing methodology in Integrated Water Quality Assessment Methods (PDF) (59 pp, 1 MB)

How are assemblages used to make impairment decisions?
Independently applied - an impairment in any individual metric (invertebrate or fish) denotes a use impairment.

Other uses of biocriteria or bioassessment within the water quality program:
Non-point source assessments, BMP evaluation, and 305(b) surface water condition assessments

Technical Support Information and Documents:

Reference condition:
Not applicable.

Development of biocriteria involves the collection and interpretation of biological data –e.g. benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, and periphyton. During this process entities typically use biological metrics (usually aggregated into a multimetric index) and/or multivariate analysis to assess whether a waterbody is meeting its designated aquatic life use(s). The reference materials included below include standard operation procedures used in data collection, compilation, technical approaches used to develop biocriteria as well as its implementation procedures.

Technical reference material:
Benthic Macroinvertebrates, Fish IBI, Headwater IBI, and Estuarine IBI.

New Jersey's Surface Water Quality Standards refer to a Methods Document to evaluate water quality data and identify where water quality does not meet the standards.

Use of the freshwater biological indices in designated use assessments are described in the Methods Document (PDF) (59 pp, 1 MB).

Stressor identification/causal analysis approach:
NJDEP-Bureau of Freshwater and Biological Monitoring conducted stressor identification pilot studies from roughly 2006-2010, at watersheds in the Raritan Region which were determined to be not attaining aquatic life use goals, based on results of sampling conducted by the Ambient Macroinvertebrate Network (AMNET).  The general protocol followed for these studies was based on the framework of USEPA’s Stressor Identification Guidance Document (2000).  After these initial studies, it was evident that refinements to the process were necessary in order to meet the Department’s needs in an effective but more efficient manner.  Currently, there are no studies being actively conducted, but preliminary discussions have occurred regarding the future direction of the stressor identification program, possibly modeled to other states’ programs.

Technical reference material:
Ambient Macroinvertebrate Network (AMNET)

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