Drought Warning Now in Effect

raindropandearthIn 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

With Drought Warning Imminent, Water Groups Urge NJ Environmental Officials to Address Long-Term Drinking Water Needs

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SaveH20NJ.org, an alliance of environmental groups committed to preserving and protecting the state’s drinking water supply, expressed growing concern over the diminished levels of New Jersey’s reservoirs on the eve of a drought hearing by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

On the heels of extremely dry spring and summer seasons and with drinking water reservoirs plummeting to approximately 50 percent capacity in North Jersey, the DEP has scheduled a public hearing on Thursday morning, a necessary step before it can issue a drought warning.

A drought warning for the following 12 counties — in which millions of New Jerseyans rely on the public water supply — could be issued as early as Thursday: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, and Union. Those counties have been under a DEP-issued drought watch since July.   In addition, the DEP has expanded the drought watch to include Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Monmouth, Ocean, and Salem counties. All but three counties — Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland — are under a formal drought designation.

A drought watch seeks voluntary water conservation; the more serious drought warning enables the DEP to require water purveyors to take action to conserve and secure drinking water sources.

“The condition of the four largest reservoirs in the state — Round Valley, Wanaque, Spruce Run and Monksville — is absolutely dire.  This action to designate a formal drought warning is extremely late, maybe too late.  I hope declaring a drought emergency does not happen, but if it does, DEP need look no further for someone to blame than in the mirror,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.

The last drought warning occurred in 2001. However, this is the second consecutive year that the DEP has issued a drought watch. In addition to drinking water reservoir levels reaching dangerously low levels, the DEP has listed all stream flows and ground water levels for the entire state as moderately, severely or extremely dry for at least the past 90 days. The DEP publishes updates to drought indicators for the state at njdrought.org.

“New Jersey’s dwindling water supply is a growing concern to the millions of families and businesses who rely on an abundant supply of clean and affordable drinking water,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “Data and observation over more than a year have pointed to a water system in peril. While we applaud the DEP’s recognition of the worsening drought, we implore the agency to end its decades-long delay in adopting a long-term plan to preserve and sustain a clean drinking water supply.”

The NJ Legislature had the foresight and understanding to require proactive planning and ensure that NJ has enough clean water available to meet all of our needs. In 1981, the Legislature passed the Water Supply Management Act, and it requires that the DEP update the Water Supply Plan at least every five years. However, the last plan update happened in 1996 — 20 years ago.

“New Jersey’s Water Supply Plan is 20 years old and it fails to adequately plan for drinking water supply for NJ’s growing population. We need the DEP and Governor Christie to update and release the Water Supply Plan to ensure we have enough water to drink, grow Jersey Fresh Produce, support healthy habitats, recreation, tourism, and water dependent businesses in our state including Budweiser, Goya, and M&M’s,” Jennifer Coffey, Executive Director, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions.  “Clean water is essential to life, economy, and a healthy environment in the Garden State. Without the Water Supply Plan, the state government is gambling with our future.”

“The drought in North Jersey is a sign of things to come.  Due to improper planning by the DEP, our residential and ecological communities will suffer far greater than if New Jersey released a water supply master plan years ago and implemented provisions to help deal with low supply and high demand.  Residents should voice their concerns at the hearing and demand immediate action with a strong plan that protects our most precious resource.” Jaclyn Rhoads, Deputy Director, Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Tools and tips for water conservation in homes and communities including landscaping, leak detection, and best water practices can be found at: http://www.saveh2onj.org/

“We need to act now to protect our state’s water. Clean and plentiful water is essential for our economy and ecology. Threats to our waters threaten our wildlife, communities and economy,” Tim Dillingham, Executive Director, American Littoral Society

The public hearing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in the Millburn Free Public Library auditorium, 200 Glen Avenue in Millburn.

Reprinted with permission from the Association of NJ Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) and SaveH20NJ.org.