Two weeks after expanding the drought watch to cover almost all parts of the Garden State, the state Department of Environmental Protection holds a public hearing Thursday in anticipation of designating a formal drought warning for 12 counties in the northeastern, central and northern coastal regions of New Jersey.

Those counties are Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset and Union.

According to Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the DEP, the purpose of the hearing “is to gather information from the general 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.”

He pointed out if and when a drought warning is issued, “it will give the DEP a regulatory tool to manage supplies ... interconnections between reservoir systems, should it be necessary to balance out the water availability between systems.”

Hajna says talks have been ongoing for weeks about the lack of water and the possibility of moving water supplies around in New Jersey.

“We’ve been discussing these possibilities with our water suppliers and they’re certainly aware of the situation,” he said.

Dave Robinson, New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University, says parts of South Jersey have actually had a fair amount of rain over the past few months and are in good shape, but other parts of the state remain extremely dry.

“This is based on reservoir levels, stream flow, ground water, all the various components of what we call the hydrologic system,” he said.

Robinson pointed out in parts of North and Central Jersey, streams are flowing at less than 25 percent of what is on average expected, rainfall has been half of what it normally is and as a result, groundwater levels have dropped.

“What we’re seeing is all the components that tell us drought is underway in many parts of the Garden State,” he said.

Hajna stressed voluntary water conservation for all New Jersey residents is very important right now.

“Every gallon here and every gallon there multiplied by the millions of people that we have in the state that are in affected regions can make a big difference,” he said.

Hajna says saving water “can be something as simple as running your dish washer and washing machine only when they’re full.”

Other simple water conservation measures include turning off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, and keeping your shower a little bit shorter.

The drought hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the Millburn Free Public Library, 200 Glen Ave., Millburn.

Contact reporter David Matthau at

Also on New Jersey 101.5:

Sign up for the Newsletter

Get the best of delivered to your inbox every day.