About 600 miles of New Jersey rivers and streams will be upgraded to Category One status — a designation that further protects them from pollution and indicates they'll be used for drinking water as well as recreation.

It's New Jersey's first such upgrade in more than a decade, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"We employ additional protections that limit the amount and character of discharge into those water bodies because we want to make sure these waters remain pristine," DEP Chief of Staff Shawn LaTourette said.

Development along the streams and rivers, for instance, would have to be set back further, LaTourette said.

He said when a business or a house close is close to a body of water, it might receive additional runoff from pesticide use — affecting people downstream who take in the water later on.

"Everyone in New Jersey deserves to live in a community that has extraordinary natural resources," LaTourette said.

The new C1 waterways flow through 67 New Jersey municipalities including Indian Run in Pittsgrove Township; Whippany River, which flows Harding, Mendham and Morris; Beaver Run, which flows through Wantage; Maurice River through Vineland; the North Branch of the Raritan River through Bedminster, Far Hills and Somerset Borough; and the Cooper River through Camden.

LaTourette said people will want to invest in places with well-cared natural resources.

Kati Angarone, associate commissioner of science and policy at the DEP, Kati Angarone said taking a look at a whole watershed is important to prevent the degradation of our streams. She added it's very important to keep our near-streamed areas vegetated, to control temperature, to control run-off and to attenuate flooding.

As we continue to see temperature and rainfall and exacerbating conditions associated with climate change, it's more important than ever to focus watershed-wide on protecting water quality, she said.

"The more that we can do to work together and preserve that vegetation along streamed corridors the better we're all going to protect ourselves, our communities, our local economies from those impacts," LaTourette said.

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