With the sustained dry weather and not much precipitation in sight, many New Jerseyans are being urged to voluntarily cut down on their water usage.

Todd Gipstein, Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Department of Environmental Protection issued a drought watch for New Jersey’s Northeast, Central, and Coastal North water supply regions.

That area includes all or parts of 12 counties, including Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset and Union.

The decision impacts nearly 6 million Garden State residents. It is the state’s first drought watch since 2010.

Officials say the continued rainfall deficits have decreased reservoir, ground water, and stream levels in these regions. While reduced levels are not uncommon at this time of year, officials did begin seeing signs of stress on the water supply.

“The declining reservoir storage in these areas is what is, specifically, drawing our attention,” said Dan Kennedy, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Water Resource Management.

The watch raises public awareness to this issue while attempting to preserve as much of the existing water supply as possible. They also hope to steer clear of the next course of action, which would be a drought warning.

“The goal in this is to avoid any mandatory restrictions,” Kennedy said. “Through precipitation and hopefully voluntary actions by residents, we can avoid that step,”

A drought warning would require a public hearing, leading to mandatory restrictions and potentially ordering water purveyors to develop alternative water sources or transferring more water to those with less.

“We think we can avoid mandatory steps, which would create significant issues for the state,” Kennedy said.

Officials are keeping a close eye on the situation, though, with above-average temperatures and dry weather projected to continue through October. The water conservation efforts are also not just for the short-term. Efforts are being made to ensure no potential problems when the high demands of next spring roll around.

“We’re not just looking for the next couple of weeks, we’re looking outwards until the next high demand season, and making sure that we are conserving water,” Kennedy said.

Some suggested water conservation tips include:

  • Not over-watering lawns and landscaping
  • Avoiding watering lawns during the heat of the day
  • Use a broom to sweep the sidewalk, instead of a hose
  • Fixing leaky faucets and pipes
  • Turning off the faucet while brushing teeth and shaving
  • Running washing machines and dishwashers only when full.

While officials know the voluntary conversation will not overcome a severe lack of long-term participation, they say these simple steps will save millions of gallons of water daily.

“Voluntary conservation of water is a part of the solution. The real big solution is rain.”

For more information on the status of the drought and tip on water conservation, visit: www.njdrought.org.