NJ nearing drought condition. What does this mean for you?

New Jersey is approaching a drought state as reservoir levels, stream flow and groundwater gauges all dropped sharply this summer due to record heat and low rainfall, have state officials said Tuesday.

Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette issued a statewide drought watch on Tuesday, the first step toward declaring a full drought, and called on residents and businesses to keep the water. If conditions don’t improve, mandatory water use restrictions in parts of the state could become necessary, LaTourette said during a briefing to reporters.

“When we look at the temperature outlook and the precipitation forecast, we continue to be concerned,” he said.

South Jersey has received less rain and aquifer levels are falling. But LaTourette said he was particularly concerned about two of North Jersey’s biggest water sources: the Wanaque Reservoir and the Oradell Reservoir, whose levels have fallen sharply since early June.

Lack of rain and high demand because of the heat are the source of the problem.

Over the past 90 days, much of New Jersey has received 25 to 50 percent less rain than average. The situation has gotten much worse over the past 30 days, when much of the state was 50% to 75% below average, according to the National Weather Service.

This July was the sixth hottest July on record in New Jersey with an average temperature of 78.1 degrees. It was also the 13th driest with an average of just 2.19 inches of rain, 2.52 inches below normal, according to a report released this week by the Office of the State Climatologist.

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The lack of rainfall has hit the state’s second largest drinking water source, the Wanaque Reservoir, particularly hard.

The reservoir was at 66.3% Tuesday morning after being close to capacity in early June. His backup – the Monksville Reservoir – remained just above 100% capacity. The system operated by the North Jersey Water Supply Commission provides water to 3 million people in 12 counties.

Veolia’s reservoir system, which serves 800,000 people in Bergen and Hudson counties, had also fallen 30 percentage points between early June, when it was above capacity, and mid-July, when it was around 70%. The system, which includes Oradell Reservoir, Lake Woodcliff and Lake Tappan, had bounced back a little from a recent torrential downpour and was at 80% as of August 1, the the latest data available shows.

“It’s those systems that supply suburban communities where there’s a lot of outdoor water use that’s going down sharply,” said Steve Domber, section chief of the DEP’s Water Supply Division. .

The two largest cities in the state fare better. Newark reservoirs in upper Passaic County have been at or near capacity for much of the summer, while Jersey City reservoirs in Morris County have fallen below average this month around 85%.

Much of central Jersey, including part or all of Monmouth, Middlesex, Union, Somerset, Hunterdon and Mercer counties, was experiencing “moderate drought” as of August 2, according to the United States. Drought Monitor. Drought conditions also spread to southern parts of Essex and Hudson counties, while large swaths of North Jersey and South Jersey were considered “abnormally dry”. The report is updated every Thursday.

DEP officials said continued conservation from reducing lawn watering to covering a pool when not in use will help. But it will still take regular rains to get the state out of this situation.

“It takes weeks and months to get into a drought and it takes weeks to get out of it,” Domber said.

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This can be difficult. In recent years, September and October have been very hot, according to reports by David Robinson, the state climatologist. Apart from extreme events like Hurricane Ida last year, these months have also been relatively dry.

Yet drought-related emergencies are rare. The last declared drought watch in New Jersey was in 2016. The last drought emergency with mandatory water use restrictions was in 2002.

Domber said there is not a certain level of reservoir capacity that would trigger a drought emergency. It’s a combination of data, he says.

Meanwhile, an unknown amount of water was lost on Tuesday when a 72-inch water main burst in Essex County. The accident at Branch Brook Park, on the border of Newark and Belleville, caused low water pressure and a boil water advisory for several cities.

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