EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Whether they know it or not, most residents of Middlesex County have seen the Lawrence Brook Watershed before. The area is spread over a 48-square-mile area, with land in New Brunswick, East Brunswick, North Brunswick, South Brunswick, and Milltown. It even extends onto Rutgers University’s Cook Campus. Because of its size, it is very important to the environment in all of these areas, and especially in East Brunswick.

Watersheds are also known as drainage basins - they are areas in which precipitation collects and drains into a larger body of water like a river or bay. Stormwater runoff and water from inland ultimately ends up in these watersheds. They tend to be hotbeds for aquatic and semi-aquatic animals like reptiles and amphibians, as well as water plants. Many of the animals that specifically occupy the Lawrence Brook Watershed are viewable in the form of taxidermied models, which the Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership hopes to display to the public as soon as they are able to locate a suitable nature center.

Because of their importance, watersheds such as the Lawrence Brook Watershed often need to be very heavily monitored. The quality of water there can affect the wildlife all around it, as well as in surrounding areas. Many watersheds are public land, and while they are often protected from being built on, they are not immune to the effects of water pollution.

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This is where community outreach comes in - specifically, in the form of the Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership. A non-profit organization founded in 1997, the Partnership aims to protect the watershed and educate the public about its ecosystem and the importance of sustaining it. The Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership is responsible for regularly monitoring the water quality in nearby streams, helping to ensure that the water is safe for local wildlife and that the area is not overly polluted. They also organize environmental cleanups around the area, inviting everyday citizens to volunteer and help clean up trash from the watershed. They are especially dedicated to making sure that the area is safe for those who live there.

They also hold bike tours and nature walks through areas around the watershed so that people can get acquainted with its unique environment and the animals and plants that live there. Unfortunately, the watershed faces many dangers - which is why fundraising and spreading awareness is so important. Michael Shakarjian, a member of the Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership, says that “Development is a big issue, and as the economy has gotten better, we have seen more. It degrades or eliminates the natural areas, some of which are environmentally sensitive, increases congestion, and leads to more runoff with pollutants into the Lawrence Brook and tributaries.” It’s bad for the water quality, which is especially important because the watershed is a source of drinking water.

The Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership plans to be at the Middlesex County Fair as part of its non-profit donation challenge. They are also planning their annual watershed cycling tour for mid-September of this year.