A township’s holistic approach to water management

The New Jersey One Water Awards honor projects that demonstrate great water management. Winners illustrate the One Water ideal by valuing and making use of all water, whether it’s drinking water, stormwater, or wastewater. The awards program is sponsored by five organizations: American Water Resources Association’s New Jersey section, American Water Works Association’s New Jersey section, Association of Environmental Authorities, Jersey Water Works, and New Jersey Water Environment Association.

The Town of Hammonton and its partners were honored with a 2018 One Water Award for their holistic approach to water management and conservation.

Conserving and managing water supplies

Faced with a directive to stop discharging its treated wastewater into a creek, the Town of Hammonton embarked on a series of innovative projects that have transformed its relationship to water. From water conservation to wastewater reuse, the town’s efforts show how a holistic approach to water can result in major gains for sustainability.

The Hammonton water treatment plant, which came online in 2004, was originally designed to recharge wastewater onsite through five rapid infiltration trenches. However, the trenches did not absorb as much water as anticipated because the underlying earth was too dense. Instead, the plant started discharging its effluent into Hammonton Creek. This short-term solution had a negative effect on water quality and aquatic ecosystems downstream.

(L to R) Jerry Barberio, business administrator, Town of Hammonton receives a New Jersey One Water Award from Virginia Michelin, immediate past president, American Water Resources Association New Jersey section at the Jersey Water Works Annual Conference.

Hammonton came up with a forward-thinking solution: Avoid discharge entirely by reusing its treated wastewater. The town constructed an overland and subsurface drip irrigation system. This extensive array of pipes carries treated, disinfected effluent from the plant to nearby wooded lands and municipal playing fields. The system irrigates approximately 34 acres, making beneficial reuse of up to 660,000 gallons of water per day. This has several environmental benefits: It avoids the consumption of fresh drinking water for irrigation; by eliminating the need for wastewater discharge into the creek, it maintains the hydrologic integrity of a sensitive waterway; and perhaps most importantly, it helps recharge the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer. Hammonton’s Municipal Utilities Department is the first in New Jersey to implement a project of this kind.

Hammonton also recognized that wastewater management starts at the tap. By encouraging reductions in water consumption, it could lessen the volume of wastewater that reached the treatment plant. The town initiated its water conservation efforts in 2013, when it changed its outdated water billing system. The new water rate structure encouraged residents to use less water. A complementary ordinance limited lawn watering. Town officials helped residents through the transition by providing information on how to conserve water and save money. Additionally, the town used funding from Sustainable Jersey to create and promote a rebate program for residents who purchased water-efficient appliances. More than $12,000 was rebated to water customers for devices such as Energy Star dishwashers and improved lawn irrigation systems. The town estimates that its efforts conserved more than one million gallons of water.

Rounding out its comprehensive water initiatives, Hammonton addressed water pollution as well. The town’s Green Committee has partnered with various organizations — including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Watershed Ambassadors and South Jersey Land and Water Trusts — to educate residents about stormwater management and rain barrels. In 2018, the town offered homeowners two rain garden workshops, as well as rebates for planting rain gardens. Rain garden installations at Hammonton’s schools and library created opportunities for the town to demonstrate the value of stormwater management to residents, students, and visitors. In addition, the town regularly monitors water quality at Hammonton Lake during summer months, gathering data about pollution.

The highly visible nature of Hammonton’s various initiatives has provided the perfect opportunity to engage residents on water issues. Although the irrigation system initially encountered negative public reaction, town officials addressed residents’ worries by presenting useful, factual information, eventually gaining support for the project. Residents have had numerous opportunities to participate directly in water projects through training workshops and rebate programs. While Hammonton’s water management alone is admirable, the town has also created a model for building public support for change, making it a leader in the journey toward a sustainable future.

A flyer for one of Hammonton’s rain barrel workshops

Project Partners: Town of Hammonton, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, Rutgers Water Resources Program, Hammonton Environmental Commission, South Jersey Resource Conservation & Development Council

Supporting Partners: Hammonton Green Committee, Atlantic County Utilities Authority, Lake Water Quality Advisory Committee

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