NJ ISSUES DROUGHT WARNING FOR DELAWARE RIVER BASIN AREA
Public hearings scheduled for Dec. 4 & 5
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Shinn today issued a drought warning for the 251 municipalities in parts of 13 counties in New Jersey along the Delaware River and southern coast due to a continued lack of rainfall that has caused declines in streamflows and groundwater levels.
"Over the past three months, the rainfall deficit in New Jersey has worsened. Rainfall was less than one inch in October and total rainfall is now approximately seven or more inches below average," said Shinn. "We support the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) in its decision to issue a drought warning this month. With this warning, we're asking residents and businesses in the state's affected areas to eliminate unnecessary use of water and conserve supplies."
DEP has scheduled two public hearings, on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m. in Westfield (Union County), and Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 10 a.m. in Moorestown (Burlington County) to obtain public comment on the situation and the state's need to take this action on a regional basis, or statewide in the future, if necessary.
Following the public hearing and comment period, the drought warning designation gives DEP greater authority to control water distribution and transfers among the major reservoir systems, and to temporarily modify water allocation permits. DEP's Drought Management Task Force met Monday to discuss water supply planning and is coordinating talks with the major water suppliers.
The state is divided into six drought management regions - northwest, southwest, northeast, central, coastal north and coastal south. Additional streamflow and ground water monitoring stations have been installed since the last drought in August 1999, allowing for more specific regional information and planning.
New Jersey's Drought Warning area covers the northwest, southwest and coastal south regions. All or parts of 13 counties are included - Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth (only Allentown Borough and Upper Freehold Township), Ocean, Salem, Sussex and Warren. DEP is issuing a drought warning for these three regions now because of reduced levels in the DRBC's reservoirs in New York State, as well as low streamflow and ground water levels.
The remaining three regions in New Jersey rely more on confined aquifers and reservoirs in the central and northeastern part of the state that have adequate water supply at this time.
DEP issued a statewide drought watch on Oct. 30. All residents are being asked to use good water conservation practices such as fixing leaky pipes, toilets and faucets, turning off faucets when not in use, installing water conserving showerheads and faucet aerators, running washing machines and dishwashers only when full, and not using hoses to sweep off sidewalks and driveways. There are no mandatory restrictions at this time unless required by an individual township.
The Dec. 4 hearing will be held in the Westfield Municipal Building, 425 E. Broad St. The Dec. 5 hearing will be held in Moorestown's Town Hall, 111 W. Second St. Written public comment also will be accepted until Dec. 5.
The four major northeastern reservoir systems, combined, are at 52 percent capacity, which is 17.5 percent below the historic average for this time of year.
The North Jersey District Water Supply Commission's reservoirs are at 47 percent capacity. United Water Co.'s reservoirs are at 58 percent capacity. Jersey City's reservoirs are at 61 percent capacity, and Newark's reservoirs are at 50 percent capacity. Interconnections exist among the systems allowing transfers of water if necessary.
Examples of some low streamflow and groundwater levels from the USGS website are listed below. Streamflows are measured in cubic feet per second past a monitoring station.
Streamflow (as of 11/21/01) -
- Paulinskill at Blairstown (Warren County) - 33 cubic feet per second compared to a minimum of 18 and a mean average of 179 based on 78 years of record
- North Branch Rancocas Creek at Pemberton (Burlington County) 73 cubic feet per second compared to a minimum of 48, with a mean average of 147, based on 79 years of record
- Great Egg Harbor River at Folsom (Atlantic County) - 26 cubic feet per second compared to minimum of 29, with a mean of 76.3, based on 75 years of record
Groundwater observation wells -
- Taylor well (Walpack Township, Sussex County) - 24.44 feet below land surface compared to record low of 25.36 feet
- Cranston Farms (Lawrenceville, Mercer County) - 32.93 feet below land compared to record low of 33.85 feet
- Vocation School (Deerfield Township, Cumberland County) -7.95 feet below land compared to a record low of 8.39 feet
A map and list of the 167 municipalities in the state's northwest, southwest and coastal south drought regions is available. For further information visit www.njdrought.org. The website also links to the DRBC website and the U.S. Geological Survey's New Jersey district web page for additional stream flow and ground water levels.