MILLBURN, NJ - The state Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled an Oct. 20 public hearing in anticipation of designating a formal drought warning for 12 counties in the northeastern, central and northern coastal regions of New Jersey, a step that will enable the DEP to work with suppliers to balance storage among reservoir systems.
The hearing, scheduled for Oct. 20, 10 a.m., at the Millburn Free Public Library, 200 Glen Avenue, in Millburn, is a required step prior to the DEP issuance of a formal drought warning for the following counties: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset and Union.
“The recent rainfall we received was not enough to reverse downward trends in our water supplies due to extended dry weather patterns over most the year,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. “It is very important for residents and businesses across New Jersey to voluntarily conserve water – especially regarding non-essential water use, such as watering lawns and landscaping – until we get sufficient rainfall to replenish supplies.”
A drought warning, which could officially take effect shortly after the hearing – unless more abundant rainfall occurs – will establish a formal process for the DEP to work with suppliers to ensure that no region faces a significant shortfall should dry weather and high customer demand continue.
The goal is to avert a drought emergency declaration, which would necessitate mandatory restrictions on water use by the public.
The purpose of the hearing will be to gather information from the public, water suppliers and other stakeholders on the current status of water supplies and to discuss steps that can be taken to mitigate water use and manage those supplies, while enhancing public awareness.
The DEP has already been consulting with major water suppliers to discuss cooperative transfers among systems.
“We are all in this together,” said Daniel Kennedy, DEP’s Assistant Commissioner for Water Resource Management. “We will work productively with all of our water systems to ensure proper management of our supplies as we continue to monitor precipitation.”
On July 25, the DEP issued a drought watch for Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.
The DEP utilizes a number of indicators to gauge the impacts lack of precipitation has on water supplies, including reservoir levels, stream flows, and levels in shallow groundwater sources, also known as unconfined aquifers.
Reservoir systems in the northeastern and northern coastal parts of the state have been grappling with below-normal precipitation for much of the year. Reservoir storage typically declines at this time of year due to heavy usage and normal summer weather patterns.
Major reservoir systems, however, are below their normal levels for this time of year, and may need management of interconnections to balance storage in if significant rainfall does not occur by the time of the hearing.
The DEP offers the following tips to reduce this use:
- At this time, it is appropriate to just let your lawns go dormant. If you decided to water lawns, do so sparingly. Two times per week for 20 minutes is sufficient.
- Use a hose with a hand-held nozzle to water flowers and shrubs.
- Avoid watering lawns and plants during the heat of the day, since much of this water will evaporate without helping the lawn.
- Use a broom to sweep the sidewalk, rather than a hose.
- 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.
- Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth and shaving.
- Run washing machines and dishwashers only when full.
- Upgrade your showerhead to low-flow versions; they can save some 7,700 gallons per year.
- Upgrade your faucets or install faucet aerators; this can save some 16,000 gallons per year.