March 31, 2020

DEP Snapshot: It’s 1981,
Taking Care of the State’s Water Resources Becomes a Legislative Priority

(20/S012) – Just about every medical expert agrees: One of the best ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 is to simply wash your hands.

hand washingThat doesn’t mean a quick splash of water on your fingertips. What it does mean is 20 seconds of soaping up, washing your fingers, palms and backs of hands, rinsing and then drying your hands thoroughly. Oh, and do it often!

How do you know that you’ve done a thorough job? It’s suggested that you sing “Happy Birthday” twice to be sure you’ve spent the proper amount of time scrubbing up.

Need a refresher on how to properly wash hands? Check out this graphic from the World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/gpsc/clean_hands_protection/en/.

Today, during Governor Murphy’s daily press conference on COVID-19, Commissioner Catherine McCabe announced that all water providers in New Jersey have agreed to suspend water shut-offs during the public health emergency. There will be no water shut-offs, the Commissioner said, offering her thanks to the utilities for the willingness to comply with a March 23 request from the state.

The Governor himself declared that New Jersey now has “100 percent compliance statewide.”

According to a joint statement issued March 23 from Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, Commissioner McCabe and Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso: “… the provision of water is an essential public service, especially now. Critical for both our health and personal hygiene, consistent access to safe water is especially vital to New Jersey’s response to the unprecedented public health emergency created by the spread by COVID-19.

“Frequent and vigorous handwashing is critical in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and all New Jerseyans should have confidence that water will be available when they open the tap to wash their hands. … At a time where many services that we may take for granted are temporarily unavailable, New Jerseyans deserve the comfort and continuity of uninterrupted water service.”

That clean water flowing from our taps are something we expect, and New Jersey made sure it could take care of the state’s water resources 39 years ago, with the Water Supply Management Act.

And now, a look at 1981 …

In 1981, New Jersey enacted the Water Supply Management Act, overhauling the system for allocating water resources in New Jersey and empowering the DEP to issue water allocation permits for nearly all uses of water.

Through the Act, the state Legislature declared that the water resources of New Jersey “are public assets of the State held in trust for its citizens and are essential to the health, safety, economic welfare, recreational and aesthetic enjoyment, and general welfare, of the people of New Jersey.”

The Legislature further found that the state’s water resources “must be planned for and managed as a common resource” and that “it is necessary that the State, through its Department of Environmental Protection, have the power to manage the water supply by adopting a uniform water diversion permit system.”

That same year, the Water Supply Bond Act of 1981 also was passed, authorizing the state and the DEP to issue bonds for the rehabilitation and repair of antiquated, damaged or inadequately operating water supply facilities, as recommended by the New Jersey Statewide Water Supply Plan. Years later, the Act would be amended to allow the DEP and the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust to use bond money to provide loans and loan guarantees to local governments to plan, design and construct water supply facilities. This was an important step in protecting water quality and ensuring compliance with state and federal safe drinking water standards. 

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