|Location||Trip Time||Travel Type|
|New Jersey||1 hour|
A splashing fountain … ocean waves … a burbling woodland stream – children can’t resist playing in and around water. Full of sound and movement, infinitely changeable, water is itself a playmate for kids. It holds endless fascination for adults, too, as a source of relaxation and serenity. When we talk about water as a resource, it’s typically to remind ourselves that we need plenty of clean water to drink, to grow crops, to cook and bathe. Water is a vital resource for our health and well-being. Here, you are enjoying the sight and sounds of the Beden Brook. Shallow and sinuous, with a flat-rock bottom, Beden Brook is typical of small waterways in Hopewell Valley. Its two main headwater tributaries meet in St. Michaels Farm Preserve, close to where you are standing. One branch rises west of Hopewell; the other to the north, in the Sourland Mountain. After the two forks come together, the brook crosses under Aunt Molly Road, continues east along shale outcrops and exits the Farm Preserve. From the nearby headwaters to its confluence with the Millstone River near Rocky Hill, Beden Brook flows 10 miles. Volunteers regularly test the stream to assess its water quality. Data shows that Beden Brook is in good condition. Federal and state clean water laws have reduced the impact of point-source pollution, direct discharges into a waterway. Today the key determinant of water quality is non-point sources from land use – how people manage land that drains into a waterway, which is called the watershed. Beden Brook benefits from a watershed area with a relatively low proportion of impervious surfaces like roads, rooftops and parking lots, all of which contribute pollutants. In general, the higher the proportion of undeveloped natural areas in a watershed – especially healthy woodlands – the higher its water quality. The best indicator of water quality in a stream is the diversity of life that it supports. The fish and frogs, and even crayfish, found here are indicators of a healthy stream. Much of its aquatic life is so small they’re hard to see, but they’re essential if the big fish are to find enough to eat: snails and worms, and the larvae of aquatic insects such as dragonflies, mayflies and stoneflies. How to ensure good water quality? Preserve land from development. Make sure stream corridors have plenty of trees and shrubs. Use land thoughtfully with an awareness that what you do affects the water. The next time you drink a glass of water, remember that you are part of the equation.
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