New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette issued a statewide drought watch as of August 9, and the Murphy Administration is urging residents and businesses to conserve water as persistent dry and hot conditions continue to stress water supplies throughout the state.
The commissioner’s declaration of a drought watch is the first in the state’s three-stage drought advisory system. The watch is intended to sow public awareness and appreciation of the stress upon water supply sources and encourage voluntary water conservation measures. If conditions do not improve, declaration of a drought warning or a drought emergency with mandatory water use restrictions may become necessary. Voluntary conservation measures at the watch stage can help to avoid more serious and restrictive drought conditions, according to the commissioner’s statement.
“Stream flow and ground water levels are falling below normal for most of the state and some reservoirs are showing steep rates of decline as hot and dry conditions continue,” Commissioner LaTourette said. “While water conservation is always important, it becomes critical during prolonged dry and hot periods like New Jersey has been experiencing. If residents and businesses do all they can to reduce water demand, together we can ensure ample supplies in the coming weeks and months.”
According to the DEP, around this time of year, more than 30 percent of water demand in suburban areas is for outdoor purposes, much of which can be reduced or avoided.
“The public can make a big difference by reducing watering of lawns and landscaping, reducing the washing of vehicles, and cutting back nonessential uses such as hosing off driveways and sidewalks.”
Last month, the DEP asked residents to conserve water use, but the state’s condition had not yet met drought watch thresholds. The last time NJ declared a drought watch or warning was in 2016. The last drought emergency with mandatory water use restrictions was declared in 2002. In October 2016, the DEP placed 14 counties in the northern, central, and northern coastal areas of New Jersey under a drought warning due to “ongoing precipitation deficits and deteriorating water-supply conditions, particularly storage levels in reservoirs.” All regional drought warnings and watches were lifted by August 2017. In March 2002, then-Governor Jim McGreevey declared a drought emergency, which was lifted in January 2003.
“The DEP is continuing to closely monitor drought indicators, which include precipitation, stream flows, reservoir levels, ground water levels, and water demand. DEP will continue to inform the public, local governments, and water systems of future actions to mitigate the risk of more severe conditions,” LaTourette’s announcement stated.
Additional tips on ways you can conserve water use can be found at the following link: dep.nj.gov/conserve-water.