TRENTON — DEP Commissioner Bob Martin yesterday announced the lifting of a statewide drought watch for most of New Jersey, with the exception of the Coastal North region that includes nearly all of Monmouth County and northern Ocean County.
The commissioner ended the drought watch, which called for voluntary water use reductions, because more consistent rainfall has occurred since the beginning of October, resulting in a general improvement in drought indicators for most of the state.
While the 90-day precipitation deficit has not been completely erased, the more regular rainfall pattern in recent weeks has increased stream flows and shallow ground water levels in most areas, and enabled substantial replenishment of key reservoirs, particularly in the Northeast.
“The situation has, thankfully, been improving, allowing us to end the drought watch in most areas,” said Martin. “I’d like to thank all of the state’s residents who cooperated in our effort to reduce excessive water use during a record dry and hot spell this summer. While we have gotten more regular and substantial rainfall in recent weeks, we are still asking residents to wisely use water and avoid wasting this important resource.”
Despite improvements elsewhere, conditions in the Coastal North lag behind the rest of New Jersey, and the drought watch remains in effect in that region. A combination of reservoir storage that is below the long-term average and severely dry and shallow ground water levels warrant continued scrutiny of this area.
Of particular note is the N.J. Water Supply Authority’s Manasquan Reservoir, which is more than 20 percent below normal for this time of year. Continued rainfall, however, should enable additional water to be pumped and stored over time. A continued improvement in indicators could result in the lifting of the drought watch in the region in the coming weeks.
“The northern coastal plain has been considerably drier than the rest of the state for several months and the recovery, despite some recent rains, has been slower to materialize,” said Steve Doughty, research scientist in the DEP’s Division of Water Supply. “We’ll continue to monitor conditions closely. Hopefully, we’ll be able to end the drought watch there soon.”
Until then, residents are still being asked to voluntarily conserve water. Taking steps such as limiting lawn watering, cutting back on at-home car washing, and using clothes and dish washers only when the machines are full can save millions of gallons of water daily, say DEP water experts.
The Coastal North includes nearly all of Monmouth County and the northern section of Ocean Counties. A complete list of towns in the region can be found at the following link: http://www.njdrought.org/coastalnorth.html.
The decision to lift the drought watch for all but the Coastal North region is based on a thorough review of drought indicators and their applicability within each drought region, evidence of a return to more normalized rainfall, and cooler temperatures and diminished demands, among others.
According to State Climatologist David Robinson of Rutgers University, New Jersey experienced its warmest summer on record since weather data has been kept starting in 1895. At the same time, below average rainfall accompanied the heat. It was the 10th driest summer of all time and the driest summer since 1966. Rainfall deficits have been recorded in 8 of the past 11 months in New Jersey, and for six consecutive months preceding October.
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