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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 15, 2017

Contact: Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Rob Geist (609) 292-2994

DEP LIFTS DROUGHT WARNING IN HUNTERDON & SOMERSET COUNTIES ENDING YEAR-LONG
STATEWIDE DROUGHT DESIGNATION

(17/P81) TRENTON – DEP Commissioner Bob Martin today announced the lifting of the drought warning for the central part of the state including all of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, which brings to an end the series of statewide initiatives which were first issued just over a year ago.

“Sufficient rainfall during the spring and summer of this year has contributed to the restoration of stream flows, unconfined groundwater levels, and reservoir levels across the State,” reads the administrative order ending the warnings.

The drought warning/watch for the rest of the state was lifted on April 12, 2017.

“I’d like to thank the residents of the entire state for their patience and cooperation in dealing with this year-long drought condition,” said Commissioner Martin. “That cooperation helped us all get through a stressful time for the state’s water supply. But I am still urging residents to use this precious resource wisely.’’

A drought warning represents a non-emergency phase of managing available water supplies during the developing stages of drought, and falls between the Watch and Emergency levels of drought response. The aim of a Drought Watch is to avert a more serious water shortage that would necessitate declaration of a water emergency and the imposition of mandatory water use restrictions, bans on water use, or other potentially drastic measures. Under a drought warning, the commissioner of the DEP may order water purveyors to develop alternative sources of water or transfer water between areas of the State with relatively more water to those with less. While mandatory water use restrictions are not imposed under a Warning, the general public is strongly urged to use water sparingly in affected areas.

Because the recovery has been relatively short-lived and conditions could again deteriorate, DEP staff will continue to closely monitor conditions through the winter and into next year’s peak water use period, Commissioner Martin said.

More consistent rainfall in the fall and winter of 2016-17 has generally improved water supply conditions throughout New Jersey. Based on this improvement, a regional drought watch/warning was lifted on April 12 for all but the two central New Jersey counties where the recovery has been slower.

Over the winter and spring, the central region had been consistently drier than the rest of New Jersey, and high water demands posed a potential threat to available supplies. A combination of reservoir storage at Round Valley and Spruce Run, which was below the long-term average and severely dry and shallow ground water levels led to extended scrutiny of this area. In fact, from March through October 2016, precipitation measured 25-50 percent below average in the northern and central regions greatly reducing the available water supply in those areas.

However, in recent weeks, the cumulative effects of greater precipitation has reversed last year’s trends. Now, the combined total storage capacity of the two central region reservoirs, Round Valley and Spruce Run, has recovered by more than 21 percentage points (from a low of 59.7 percent on November 28, 2016 to the current combined total of 81.03 percent), which is only approximately 10 percentage points below average for this time of year.

Residents across the Garden State are still urged to use water wisely and conserve this important resource. For more information on water conservation and water supply status can be found at: http://www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/conserve.htm and http://www.njdrought.org/current.html

Information on the State's 90-day precipitation rate can be found at: http://water.weather.gov/precip/index.php

Administrative Order No. 2017-13 Water Supply Management Act can be found at: http://www.nj.gov/dep/drought/docs/ao2017-13.pdf

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Last Updated: August 15, 2017