In the heels of extremely dry spring and summer seasons and with drinking water reservoirs plummeting to approximately 50 percent capacity in North Jersey, the NJDEP placed 14 counties into drought warning following a public hearing on October 21st. The counties included: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren. In addition, the following counties are under drought watch: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem. All but three counties — Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland — are under a formal drought designation.
The DEP states that this is the worst drought in New Jersey in 14 years. It has been exacerbated by warmer than normal summer temperatures. In fact, seven of the last nine months (January through September) have been hotter than normal. This seems to be a recurring trend that we can expect to continue in the future.
The Administrative Order signed by Commissioner Martin establishes a formal process for the DEP to work with water suppliers in affected regions to ensure no single water supplier or region faces a significant shortfall should dry weather and high customer demand continue.
The goal of the drought warning is to preserve and balance available water supplies in an effort to avert more serious water shortages in the future. The warning also elevates the need for residents and businesses in impacted counties to reduce their water use. The next step, if things do not improve, would be for the state to declare a drought emergency.
The drought warning does not mandate water saving restrictions, but rather citizens are strongly encouraged to take voluntary actions to reduce our water usage. The DEP offers the following tips to reduce water use:
- At this time of year, it is appropriate to let your lawns go dormant.
- Turn sprinkler systems off automatic timers.
- Use a hose with a hand-held nozzle to water flowers and shrubs, or let them go dormant.
- Use a broom to sweep the sidewalk, rather than a hose.
- Wash vehicles with a bucket and do not run the hose more than necessary, or use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
- To save water at home, fix leaky faucets and pipes. Consider replacing your toilet with a low-flow version; this can save around 11,000 gallons per year.
- Upgrade your showerhead to low-flow versions, which can save some 7,700 gallons per year.
- Upgrade your faucets or install faucet aerators; this can save some 16,000 gallons per year.
For more state water supply status information and to view the Administrative Order, visit: www.njdrought.org
For more detailed information on water conservation technologies and interesting facts, visit: www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/conserve.htm