At the end of July, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection declared a drought watch for all of Bergen, Essex, Hunterdon, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.

As dry conditions persist, officials could soon expand the areas where a drought watch is in effect or change the watch to a warning — when the public strongly urged to use water sparingly.

“Anyone who’s looked around at the lawns and fields of the state has recognized how dry it’s gotten in recent weeks. We’ve had record or near-record warmth and very little rainfall since July, thus we see things deteriorating,” said Dave Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University.

He said “groundwater levels are dropping, stream flow is in pretty bad shape right now, and reservoirs are falling off.”

As a result, Robinson said, U.S. Drought Monitor designations are expected to change later this week. The U.S. Drought Monitor is a consortium of organizations that work together to study drought in different parts of the United States, including New Jersey.

Robinson stressed this is the time of year when you’re either winning or losing in the precipitation department.

“We’re at that point where we may or may not get late summer thunderstorms that produce significant rainfall, and right now we’re in a persistent situation where the rains are not producing,” he said.

He added the good news is there is always the chance that things will suddenly turn around, but “the worrisome news right now is we’ve had event after event fail to produce, so until we see that regime reverse itself we’re going to keep getting drier."

DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said the agency is growing more concerned, and continues to review the situation .

He said if there is not significant rainfall soon, “things will change.”

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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