Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority (Brick Utilities) has announced completion of their public education project, which focused on protecting the Barnegat Bay and Metedeconk River. The project, Greening Your Landscape While Protecting the Watershed, involved a series of educational workshops about using rain barrels and rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff and nonpoint source pollution. The Barnegat Bay Partnership provided partial funding for the project through its Communication and Education Grant Program.
Stormwater has been identified as one of the primary water quality threats to the Barnegat Bay and the Metedeconk River. It picks up nonpoint source pollutants, such as lawn chemicals and litter, while running over the landscape, roads, parking lots and driveways. By capturing stormwater in rain barrels and rain gardens, less runoff and nonpoint source pollution reach our local rivers, streams, lakes and the bay.
Between August 2017 and October 2018, Brick Utilities offered three rain barrel workshops and one rain garden workshop. All of the workshops were free for participants. Presentations were given at the beginning of each program about the benefits rain barrels and rain gardens have in reducing stormwater runoff’s effect on local water resources as well as other benefits they provide. Hands-on experiences were given to each participant on how to build and install these measures around their homes and businesses.
Brick Utilities conducted the rain barrel workshops at Ocean County Park in Lakewood and Windward Beach in Brick. After learning about the benefits of harvesting rain water to prevent stormwater runoff and to reuse in their landscape, attendees learned how to build a rain barrel and were able to take one home. All materials for construction were provided, as was a demonstration on how to install it. One rain barrel can capture about 1,400 gallons of water from April through October. The 75 rain barrels built in the three workshops can prevent up to 105,000 gallons of polluted stormwater from entering the Metedeconk River and Barnegat Bay.
Participants in the rain garden workshop learned how they could create beautiful habitats for wildlife within their landscapes with native plants, while trapping litter, debris, sediment and contaminants carried by stormwater runoff. Everyone learned how native plants and microbes in the soil break down and use pollutants in stormwater. This treated water slowly soaks into the soil, recharging groundwater supplies. Participants were introduced to the Jersey-Friendly Yards website as a helpful tool for water conservation and natural landscaping practices they can use around their homes to improve water quality. The workshop was held at Brick Utilities offices, where a demonstration rain garden was built in various stages of completion so participants could see first-hand how one is constructed.
This project supports efforts by Brick Utilities and Barnegat Bay Partnership to implement the Metedeconk River Watershed Protection and Restoration Plan. Completed in 2013, the plan aims to preserve the Metedeconk River as an important water supply for the region, protect and improve the health of the Barnegat Bay estuary, and address water quality impairments. The plan identifies stormwater runoff as the main threat to the Metedeconk River.
The Brick Utilities workshops drew attendees from numerous shore towns including Brick, Lakewood, Jackson, Toms River, and Point Pleasant Beach. Partner organizations for the project included the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Township of Brick, Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation, and Boating Education and Rescue (B.E.A.R.).