As the very hot and very dry dog days of summer continue here in the great Garden State, officials Tuesday issued a statewide drought watch.
The declaration by New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette comes amid persistent hot, dry conditions that are stressing water supplies and urges residents and businesses to conserve water.
A drought watch is the first level of the state’s three-stage drought advisory system.
The move is intended to raise public awareness about the situation and marks an escalation from late July when the state encouraged residents and businesses to conserve water. New Jersey American Water also issued a mandatory odd/even watering notice in July for residents in Ocean and Monmouth counties, as well as encouraging the same from customers in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties.
If conditions do not improve, a drought warning or even a drought emergency with mandatory water use restrictions may become necessary. That is why officials are sounding the alarm now to avoid more serious and restrictive conditions.
“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,” said LaTourette. “While water conservation is always important, it becomes critical during prolonged dry and hot periods like New Jersey has been experiencing.”
Officials say that 30% of water demand this time of year in suburban areas is for outdoor purposes, so reducing the watering of lawns and landscaping, the washing of vehicles, and cutting back on other nonessential uses can make a big a difference.
The last drought watch or warning to be declared in the state was in 2016 while the last drought emergency with mandatory water use restrictions took place in 2002.
“We are disheartened to hear that we are entering into a drought watch during the height of these hot summer days,” said Ed Potosnak, executive director, New Jersey LCV. “By taking steps to conserve our precious freshwater resources now, we will hopefully avoid a drought emergency.”
The NJDEP says it is closely monitoring drought indicators, including precipitation, stream flows, reservoir levels, ground water levels and water demand. It has prepared a Conserve Water Toolkit, which is available here.
“If residents and businesses do all they can to reduce water demand, together we can ensure ample supplies in the coming weeks and months,” LaTourette added.