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
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
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
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
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
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
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.