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CONTACT: Elaine Makatura 609 292 9289

Cautions Drought Emergency Still Exists

TRENTON 06/20 -- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today amended the current drought restrictions, easing water uses across the state. For the first time since the drought emergency was declared in March, DEP is allowing lawn watering in the northeast drought region, which includes Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris and Passaic counties.

DEP is not lifting the statewide drought emergency and many of the current water use restrictions will remain throughout the summer. Voluntary water conservation efforts continue to be vitally important both during this ongoing drought and in the long-term management of our water resources.

"Given the recent rainfall we've experienced, we can now ease some of the water use restrictions in place across the state to lighten the burden, particularly on small business," said Commissioner Campbell. "We still need everyone to help conserve this vital resource. Just as we've seen our reservoir levels significantly rise over a few months, history also has shown that they can drop quickly, especially during the hot summer months," he added.

Highlights of the expanded water uses include:

  • lawn watering statewide every other day on an odd-even basis;
  • watering of non-lawn vegetation statewide on an odd-even basis;
  • residential car washing on weekends only using a sponge and bucket or automatic shut off hose;
  • daily lawn watering allowed for new sod or seed;
  • washing of house using a bucket or automatic shut off hose;
  • increasing from 50 to 80 percent (of the permit allowance) the amount of water golf courses use, applying best management practices.

"I want to stress that the drought emergency has not been lifted," Campbell cautioned. "Groundwater and stream flow remain at low levels in southern New Jersey where we continue to see record numbers of wells going dry."

Some of the current restrictions that remain in place include: serving of water in eating establishments only upon request; no ornamental outdoor water use, including fountains, waterfalls and reflecting pools with some exceptions; suspension on decisions on applications for new or modified water allocation permits; no washing of sidewalks and driveways with some exceptions to protect public health; and installing and using low flow shower heads on public showers.

Most meteorologists consider the current drought weather pattern to have started in July 1998. Since that time the state has declared drought emergencies on three separate occasions - December 1998, August 1999, and March 2002. In the past 48 months there have only been ten months with rainfall levels greater than average. Periods of extremely dry conditions have been followed by bouts of rain only to return to dry conditions. In order to determine if we have broken this cycle we have to carefully monitor precipitation levels over the next few months.

While rainstorms during March, April and May have significantly increased reservoir levels, these three months of precipitation have not erased the rainfall deficit that has accumulated for years of below average rainfall levels. We are starting the summer with record low shallow groundwater levels. Without a long period of higher than normal rainfall, shallow groundwater levels will not recharge.

All the current drought provisions are the same for all six-drought regions and apply equally to water provided through private wells or a public water supply system. In all instances the amount of water individuals use for any activity should be kept to a minimum, avoiding any water waste.

Municipal, county and state law enforcement agencies are responsible for enforcement of the ongoing and amended water use restrictions. County or local governments can still impose stricter water use limitations.

The fifth drought informational meeting for the central drought region will be held on June 27 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Cook College Student Center in New Brunswick. The sixth drought informational meeting for the coastal north drought region will be held on July 9 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.

For more information on drought revisions or to get a copy of the Administrative Order, go to



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Last Updated: April 16, 2009