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RELEASE: 8/17/99
CONTACT: Amy Collings or Sharon A. Southard
609-984-1795 or 609-292-2994


State Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn today issued new water use criteria that allow for watering of athletic fields and offer options to nurseries, golf courses and other entities with significant water needs.

The original administrative order was issued August 5. Todayís amendments allow for the watering of football, soccer and other playing fields, and encourage the use of non-potable water on golf courses, horse tracks and other areas.

"As in every drought, at this early stage, the state must try to avoid creating financial hardships for businesses, which is why our focus has been on restricting non-essential, outdoor use, primarily residential use," said Shinn. "These amendments create opportunities for innovative use of wastewater, and we hope will lead to permanent arrangements for recycling water."

Many schools, including universities with football stadiums and youth athletic associations, were concerned that students playing on unwatered fields could suffer injuries when falling on rock-hard soils, and that cleats could rip apart the now brittle turf. These concerns were reviewed by the Water Emergency Task Force, which is comprised of representatives of all state agencies, and were forwarded to Shinn by State Drought Coordinator Mark O. Smith.

The amendment allows athletic fields to be watered daily between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. for no more than 45 minutes per area to be watered. Grass outside of the essential playing area may not be watered.

"Since the drought emergency was declared, water use has declined 20-30 percent. Given this substantial cutback, the safety issues raised regarding these athletic fields, and the fact that, unlike residential lawns, there is extensive public use of these fields, we believe we can allow limited watering at this time," said Shinn. "Should the situation change, and the usage levels rise significantly, we will of course immediately revisit this issue."

"Wastewater is used routinely at several golf courses in New Jersey and has proven to be an environmental and economic success story," said Smith. "Given the stateís stringent standards for wastewater production, the quality of the water is appropriate for these uses. Re-use of the water reduces the demand on our water supplies and reduces operational costs as well."

The amendment authorizes wastewater treatment plants that are in compliance with their state discharge permits to make available final treated effluent for non-potable use such as street sweeping, horse tracks, golf courses, roadside plantings, nurseries and other non-edible crops. The wastewater cannot be used if it is needed to maintain adequate flow levels in the stream that normally receives the effluent, or if it is needed as a water supply source by a downstream water company.

Watering with wastewater can only occur in areas and times with limited public access, and signs must be posted informing the public that wastewater is in use. Wastewater cannot be used on residential lawns, edible crops or for any indoor use.

The amendment also allows residents to use drip tube devices, but not soaker hoses, that are equipped with timers for watering trees, plants, shrubs and gardens between midnight and 6 a.m.

Other new provisions include:

  • The timeframe for watering residential lawns that have been newly seeded or sodded by a commercial contractor have been extended from 20 to 30 days after the date of planting to allow this commercial activity to continue. Watering cannot exceed 45 minutes per day per area to be watered and must occur between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Residents shall produce documentation of the date of planting upon request by enforcement authorities. The exemption does not apply to commercial facilities unless they can document to the departmentís satisfaction a 40 percent reduction in water use.

  • Clay tennis courts may be watered for no more than 10 minutes each day between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"Cooperation from our residents and businesses has been outstanding, and we urge everyone to continue to conserve," said Shinn.

For more information or clarifications, call the DEP Drought Emergency Hotline at 1-800-4-ITS-DRY (1-800-448-7379) weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Or visit the DEP website at



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