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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE: 1/24/02
02/10

CONTACT: Loretta O'Donnell or Amy Collings
(609) 984-1795 or 292-2994

NJDEP EXPANDS DROUGHT WARNING TO NORTHEAST AND NORTHERN COAST

Due to continued dry weather and declining reservoir and stream flow levels, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Acting Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today expanded the existing regional drought warning to include seven additional counties -- Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean and Passaic counties.

"Water supplies are at alarmingly low levels for this time of year," said Campbell. "We need everyone to take common-sense steps to reduce water use and avoid water waste."

Rainfall the past three months has been less than 50 percent of normal, so precipitation over the next several weeks is key to replenishing streams and reservoirs impacted by the long-term precipitation deficit, said Campbell. Rainfall last year was below normal for 10 out of 12 months, averaging about nine inches below the long-term average (1895-2000.) It was the driest year since the mid-Sixties, and the fifth driest year since 1895.

A drought warning urges voluntary conservation but allows the state the authority to order transfers of water among suppliers and other temporary modifications including reducing flow rates in rivers to preserve reservoir levels, if necessary. If conditions worsen, DEP could recommend the Governor declare a water emergency, which may include mandatory restrictions. However, such mandatory restrictions on residential use do not save as much water in the winter when there is little outdoor water use.

Campbell signed the Drought Warning Declaration today after a review of the latest drought monitoring data and consultation with major water suppliers.

Although rain was falling in Trenton as Campbell made the announcement, water supplies in the state are exceptionally low. Combined, the four reservoir systems in the Northeast (United Water Co., Jersey City, Newark and North Jersey District Water Supply Commission) are now 42.9 percent full, which is 37.2 percent below the historic average for this time of year. In comparison, the combined systems were 50.6 percent full, or 20 percent below average, on Nov. 20 when the drought warning for the first three regions was declared. Fall was exceptionally dry, with October and November being the driest such period on record.

"While the immediate problem is low rainfall, today's action underscores the importance of strengthening long-term protection of waters that serve as drinking water sources," Campbell said. "In many cases, that protection is long overdue."

The declaration includes reducing some reservoir releases and passing flow requirements for rivers, which could save millions of gallons per day in the reservoir systems. The release reductions are for the Wanaque, Point View, Boonton and Split Rock reservoirs. Reductions in the passing flows were made for the Passaic, Pompton, Ramapo, Raritan, Saddle, Shark, Jumping Brook, Manasquan and Metedeconk rivers. (Specific number reductions for each included in the attached Drought Warning Declaration.)

With today's declaration of drought warning for the Northeast and Coastal North regions, five of the state's six drought management regions are in drought warning. In the other three regions, the Northwest, Southwest and Coastal South, drought warnings were declared on Nov. 21 (map attached).

A drought watch, the first phase, exists in the Central region in the Raritan River Basin, which has higher reservoir levels. The combined level of the Spruce Run and Round Valley reservoirs is now 82.6 percent full, compared to the historic average of 90.4 percent full at this time.

Morris County is in the Northeast drought warning region except for four municipalities--Chester Borough and Chester, Mount Olive and Washington townships--which are in the Central drought watch region.

Precipitation from October through April provides the bulk of recharge to aquifers, which augment stream flows, allowing the reservoirs to refill.

Examples of some low streamflow and ground water levels from the USGS web site are listed below. Streamflows are measured in cubic feet per second past a monitoring station.

Streamflow (as of 1/18/02) -

  • Paulinskill at Blairstown (Warren County) - 36 cubic feet per second compared to a minimum of 34 and a mean average of 171 based on 78 years of record

  • North Branch Rancocas Creek of Pemberton Township (Burlington County) 55 cubic feet per second compared to a minimum of 50 with a mean average of 189 based on 79 years of record

  • Great Egg Harbor River at Folsom (Atlantic County) 36 cubic feet per second compared to a minimum of 36, with a mean of 97 based on 75 years of record

Groundwater observation wells

  • Taylor well (Walpack Township, Sussex County) 21.95 feet below land surface compared to a record low of 25.36 feet

  • Cranston Farms (Lawrenceville, Mercer County) 32.5 feet below land compared to record low of 33.85 feet

  • Vocation School (Deerfield Township, Cumberland County) 8.14 feet below land compared to a record low of 8.39 feet

For information on how to conserve water, go to DEP's drought web site at NJDrought.org or call 1-800-4-ITS-DRY. The site also links to the USGS web page and the Delaware River Basin Commission.

 

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