This report describes the ground-water systems in the unconsolidated sand and gravel aquifers of the Coastal Plain of New Jersey and Long Island and in the fractured bedrock and valley-fill aquifers of northern New Jersey; summarizes current knowledge about the occurrence and distribution of nitrate, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and pesticides in these systems; and explains why some ground-water systems are more vulnerable to comtamination than others. Although the vulnerability of ground water to contamination from the land surface is influenced by many factors, the degree of aquifer confinement, the depth of the well, and the surrounding land use are key factors. Unconfined aquifers generally are much more vulnerable to contamination than confined aquifers. For a well in a confined aquifer, the farther the well is from the unconfined area, the less vulnerable it is to contamination. Generally, the deeper the well, the less vulnerable it is to contamination. Finally, because human activities greatly affect the quality of water that recharges an aquifer, the amount and type of land use in the area that contributes water to the well is a key factor in determining vulnerability. Nitrate contamination of ground water typically occurs in agricultural and residential areas, especially where the aquifer is very permeable and unconfined and nitrogen-fertilizer use is high. In New Jersey and on Long Island, concentrations of nitrate exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) more often than those of VOCs or pesticides. Nitrate contamination generally is associated with nonpoint sources. VOC contamination of ground water occurs primarily in urban areas, especially in mixed urban and industrial areas where chemicals are used. In general, VOC concentrations are low and do not exceed MCLs. High concentrations of VOCs generally are associated with point sources. Pesticide contamination of ground water occurs in some agricultural and residential areas, where the aquifer is very permeable and unconfined, and where the chemicals are used. Concentrations of pesticides in New Jersey and on Long Island generally are low; in agricultural areas of Long Island, however, some have been found to exceed MCLs. Pesticide contamination generally is associated with nonpoint sources.