Is North Jersey headed for a drought? Reservoir levels falling fast
Nobody is pushing the panic button just yet, but with drier-than-normal conditions and higher-than-average temperatures over the past few weeks, state officials are carefully monitoring reservoir levels as they begin to drop.
“We really don’t have any margin for error in the precipitation department because we’re seeing very low stream flow for this time of year," New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University Dave Robinson said. "Ground water is dropping and the reservoirs in the northern part of the state are starting to drop at a rate that’s a little faster than their normal decline."
He pointed out we had the 31st warmest June over the past 120 years of record keeping, with an average temperature of 70.5 degrees, which was 4/10ths of a degree above average.
Robinson said that might not sound like a big deal, but the statewide rainfall total for Jersey in June was only 2.38 inches, which was 1.64 inches below the long-term average.
“It was the 20th driest June in the past 120 years, we’ve certainly got to keep an eye on things in the weeks and months ahead,” said Robinson.
He explained the first danger area that officials monitor is in the northeastern part of the state, where there are more people and less water resources.
“The northern half has been worse off in the last several months, and as such the U.S. drought monitor has the area in what’s called moderate drought at this point,” said Robinson.
He stressed the state Department of Environmental Protection has not issued any drought watch yet, but that could happen in the next two weeks.
“It’s sort of the natural progression as things start drying out and the indicators start pointing towards drought that actions begin to be considered,” he said
Robinson added New Jersey is fortunate because we can get significant rain during the summer months, whereas states out west may get no rain whatsoever, so we can pull out of a drought at any time should one develop.
He pointed out the National Weather Service has not issued any rainfall predictions for the summer season in New Jersey, however “they are calling for July and August to be above normal temperature wise.
"That’s not great news because the hotter it is, the faster things evaporate and dry out. Things are drying up, reservoir levels are falling and we really could use normal or above normal and timely rainfall.”
Robinson explained if a drought watch is issued, there will be no mandatory water conservation, but if things progress to a drought warning, there would be water restrictions imposed, perhaps involving lawn watering or other uses, depending on local conditions.
If a drought warning continues for any length of time, a drought emergency could be declared. The last time that happened in the Garden State was 2002.
Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com