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The Rahway Watershed

Celebrating its gifts, managing its power 


There are many trails and beautiful landscapes to enjoy along the Rahway, including Rahway River Park (above) in Rahway, NJ


Photo Debra L. Partesi

The Rahway River is a source of pride and enjoyment for people living in the River's 83-square mile watershed. Just 24 miles long, it meanders through cities and suburbs, woodlands and wetlands, salt marshes and tidal flats as it makes its way through Essex, Middlesex and Union Counties.

Nearly 700 species of plants and animals make their home in and around the River, which provides drinking water for over 27,500 people in the city of Rahway. Almost 5,000 acres of county parkland and many National Historic Sites enrich the quality of life in the watershed.

But for many people living in the 24 municipalities within the River’s watershed, flooding has become an urgent environmental issue. 

Hurricane Irene in 2011 dramatized the potential of poorly managed stormwater and flooding to destroy property and jeopardize health and safety. 
Contributing to the risk of future flooding are:

Click for a full map of the Rahway Watershed

Map by Michael Calabrese



Without definitive action to manage stormwater in Watershed communities, the threat of future losses from flooding will only increase.

Various initiatives are underway in Rahway River communities to protect the watershed’s open spaces, celebrate its rich fauna and flora, increase access to the waterway, improve water quality and protect the River for present and future generations.

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Uncontrolled stormwater is a major cause of flooding and also impairs water quality as it flows over land, picking up pollutants that end up in the River. This “nonpoint source pollution” includes airborne substances that collect on roadways, chemicals in fertilizers and pesticides, silt, bacteria and nutrients from livestock and pet waste, oil and grease, litter and other substances.

Today nonpoint source pollution is the leading cause of water quality problems. These pollutants have harmful effects on drinking water supplies, recreation, fisheries and wildlife.

We can reduce the amount and speed of stormwater runoff by encouraging absorption of rainwater into the ground. One way to accomplish this is through the use of green infrastructure techniques.


Green infrastructure

Green infrastructure is a term that is often used interchangeably with "low impact development." It refers to land use techniques that effectively manage stormwater by infiltrating it into the ground at the place where it falls by using vegetation or porous surfaces, or by capturing it for later reuse.

Common types of green infrastructure include rain gardens, bioretention cells, planter or tree boxes, vegetated swales, permeable pavement, green roofs, rainwater harvesting and downspout disconnection.

What Your Town Can Do

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Rain Garden

Photo Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources

What can you do at home?

Rainwater harvesting can be accomplished by redirecting roof runoff into a rain barrel or cistern.

photo Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper


Outreach Materials

Rahway Stormwater Brochure

Rahway Stormwater Poster

1000 Rain Gardens Brochure

1000 Rain Gardens Display –available on loan from ANJEC


Initiatives to protect the Rahway Watershed

Rahway River Association The purpose of the Rahway River Association is to protect and restore the Rahway River and its ecosystem. 

The Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control After Hurricane Irene in 2011, mayors of towns along the Rahway River established this organization to find solutions to flooding in the Watershed.

Rahway River Watershed Storm Water Advisory Board
With continued concerns about flooding, a regional board was formed in early 2013 to advise Rahway River Watershed towns and advocate for changes to ordinances and implementation of best storm water management practices that can protect water quality and reduce the quantity of uncontrolled runoff.

1000 Rain Gardens This initiative aims to develop, through public and private means, at least 1000 rain gardens in the Rahway River Watershed from West Orange in Essex County to Woodbridge in Middlesex County.


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photo Debra L. Partesi



More info



This information is brought to you through a partnership of the Association of NJ Environmental Commissions, the Rahway River Association and the Mayors Council on the Rahway River Watershed. This project is funded by a cooperative agreement awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency to NEIWPCC in partnership with the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program.




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