Combined Sewer System

Understanding the sewer systemMost of Jersey City is serviced by a combined sewer system. In a combined sewer system, water runoff from sidewalks, streets, parking lots, and buildings flows into storm drains (also known as catch basins) and combines with sanitary sewers from buildings, which then flows to a water treatment facility.

During events that produce large amounts of water runoff (such as heavy rain or snow melts), the volume of the runoff flowing into the sewer is greater than the capacity of the pipe to the treatment facility. When this occurs, the contaminated and polluted excess wastewater and runoff combined in sewers discharge directly into surrounding waterways. This is called a combined sewer overflow.

In a separated sewer system, water runoff flows into a storm sewer and is discharged into neighboring waterways, whereas wastewater flows into a separate sanitary sewer and is sent to a treatment plant. Because these systems are separate, weather events do not cause wastewater to flow into waterways.

Under the terms of the Clean Water Act, combined sewer systems are regulated by the EPA and municipalities are responsible for devising strategies to reduce or eliminate combined sewer overflows and mitigate the resulting pollution of waterways. Strategies for accomplishing this goal include two types of solutions: grey infrastructure, which can be creating a separated sewer system, building facilities to treat or filter outfall discharges, and underground detention or retention infrastructure to hold excess runoff and wastewater; and green infrastructure, which captures, absorbs, or diverts storm water before it enters sewer systems. Green infrastructure includes tree pits, bioswales, rain gardens, and other features which incorporate vegetation or mimic nature. Read more about green infrastructure on our Green Infrastructure Page.


Combined Sewer Outfall Locations

View an interactive map that provides the location of, and information on, the 212 Combined Sewer Overflow outfalls in New Jersey. These outfalls are located in a total of 21 municipalities.



Where Does Our Water Come From?

Jersey City receives its potable water from the Rockaway River, a tributary of the Passaic River. The Rockaway River flows through the town of Boonton, NJ, where it is impounded at the Boonton Reservoir Dam, which the city completed construction on in 1904. Jersey City used to receive its water from the Passaic River, however the increase in industrial construction in the late 19th century left the river very polluted. Jersey City was the first city in the country to treat its water with chlorine; this significantly improved the quality of the water and immediately lowered the number of deaths due to typhoid fever. Jersey City’s water is currently treated and managed by SUEZ (formerly United Water) at the Jersey City Water Treatment plant in Boonton, before traveling through 23 miles of pipes to Jersey City.

Jersey City’s wastewater is piped under the Hackensack River to Newark where it is treated by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) at the Newark Bay Treatment Plant. The water is cleaned and then released into the New York Harbor.

A Brief Timeline of Jersey City's Water History

Jersey City's water originates in the Rockaway River watershed, which feeds the Boonton and Splitrock Reservoirs. The reservoirs have been owned by Jersey City since 1904. Sanitary waste water and stormwater is discharged to a combined sewer system that is operated and maintained by the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority UCMUA) and
then pumped to Newark to be treated by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners (PVSC) and discharged to the Passaic River.

Water Stages