Equilibrium & Sustainability

New Jersey issues first drought watch since 2016

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

Officials in New Jersey announced a statewide drought watch on Tuesday for the the first time in six years — urging residents to conserve water amid persistent dry conditions.

The issuance of a drought watch is the first step in the Garden State’s three-stage drought advisory system, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The watch serves to “sow public awareness” about the stress on state water supplies and encourage voluntary conservation measures, per the DEP.

If conditions in the state do not improve, the declaration of a drought warning or drought emergency with mandatory restrictions could become necessary, the DEP warned.

“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,” DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said in a statement.

“While water conservation is always important, it becomes critical during prolonged dry and hot periods like New Jersey has been experiencing,” LaTourette continued. “If residents and businesses do all they can to reduce water demand, together we can ensure ample supplies in the coming weeks and months.”

Because more than 30 percent of water demand in New Jersey’s suburban areas serves outdoor purposes in the summer, the DEP advised residents to cut back on watering of lawns and landscaping. Reducing car washing and nonessential uses — such as hosing off driveways and sidewalks — is also critical, according to the DEP.

New Jersey’s last drought watch or warning occurred in October 2016, when the DEP placed 14 counties under a warning due to ongoing precipitation deficits. The most recent drought emergency occurred in March 2002.

“The DEP is continuing to closely monitor drought indicators,” the agency said. “DEP will continue to inform the public, local governments, and water systems of future actions to mitigate the risk of more severe conditions.”

Also on Tuesday, Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee (D) issued a drought advisory in his state, asking residents to likewise take a variety of voluntary conservation measures.

A drought advisory — last issued in September 2020 — precedes a drought watch in Rhode Island.

“While our water supply is designed to withstand drought, Rhode Islanders should be aware of the current conditions,” McKee said in a statement.

“As a precaution, I encourage residents and businesses to consider taking water conservation measures,” he added.

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