With all the rain we had this past weekend, you might imagine the state’s drought watch in north and central New Jersey would be discontinued — but that is not the case.

“We’re going to still need more rain to pull out of the watch at this point,” said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

He said the DEP is in the process of reviewing rainfall data, and the impact on groundwater and stream flow that leads into state reservoir systems.

“Our initial indications are obviously the rainfall is very welcome and it benefited key areas of the state that really needed the rainfall, but it’s not a drought-buster," Hajna said. "We still have to monitor. The public still has to be vigilant about how much water they use.”

He did stress, however, the kind of soaking rainfall that we had on Saturday and Sunday was just what the doctor ordered.

“It helps to slowly release water into the streams. The streams are collecting the runoff and water is going into rivers that feed into the reservoirs,” he said. “That’s all good. We really need rain that’s a slower, methodical replenishment as it were, but it takes a long time to get into a drought watch situation, and it takes time to pull out of it.”

Hajna said data is still being reviewed about how much rain fell in different areas, and how much reservoirs were helped. Once tabulated, the information will be available on njdrought.org.

“In the next day or so we’ll be able to see if there’s been a slight uptick in the rate of decline for the reservoirs, but this process is not instantaneous,” he said. “It takes some time for all these streams and the groundwater to release the water into the reservoirs and to actually be measured and noticed as a change in the level of the reservoir.”

He also pointed out “we don’t know if we’re going to hit another stretch of dry weather.”

The bottom line, stressed Hajna, is “rain that fell over the weekend is really going to help the lawns. It’s going to reduce demand. One of the biggest uses of water in North Jersey is for watering of lawns, but the drought watch is not over, and people need to be careful with how they use water.’

Eight days ago the DEP declared a drought watch for all of Bergen, Essex, Hunterdon, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.

The department’s water conservation tips include:

• Do not over-water lawns and landscaping areas.
• Avoid watering lawns and plants during the middle of the day when temperatures are hottest.
• Use a broom, not a hose, to sweep the sidewalk.
• Fix leaky faucets and pipes to save water.
• Turn off the faucet while shaving and brushing teeth.
• Only run dishwashers and washing machines when they’re full.

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