Sustainable Jersey: Less water for all of us

January 23, 2017


Drought warning in effect for 14 NJ counties

Even as New Jersey is battered with heavy rains from a nor’easter expected to bring two days of wet weather, the rainfall won’t be enough to lift a drought warning and buoy the state’s dwindling water supply.

The state Department of Environmental Protection in October issued the drought warning for 14 north and central New Jersey counties — Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren. In addition, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties remain under a drought watch, while only Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties are classified as “normal” in regards to precipitation levels.

Why You Should Care

Droughts are damaging events. The human and ecosystem costs can be enormous, but they are also opportunities, a chance to change personal behaviors and put in place new, innovative water policies that are not discussed during normal years. The goal of the drought warning is to preserve and balance available water supplies in an effort to avert more serious water shortages in the future. The warning also reinforces the need for residents and businesses in impacted counties to conserve water.

“The situation in our reservoir systems is becoming more critical, with some systems dropping to half their capacity or less,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “Without knowing how much precipitation we are going to get over the winter to replenish our water sources, it is vital that every resident and business step up efforts to voluntarily reduce water use in the hope of averting a water emergency and mandatory restrictions.”

Since Sustainable Jersey’s inception, DEP has been a strong advocate and partner and continues to be critical to the ongoing evolution of the program.

What You Can Do

Many of us still have old toilets, showerheads, washing machines and other appliances that are not water efficient, and we should replace them. We need to take a new look at the water hungry, non-native plants and grass we have in our yards. And we should seek out and explore new, renewable sources of water, including water treatment and reuse, rainwater harvesting and water desalination.

A number of New Jersey municipalities have passed water conservation ordinances. Most towns limit days and hours when lawn watering or other irrigation can occur. Some towns have simply established a sprinkler use ordinance that sets a schedule for lawn watering, while others pass an annual resolution to establish seasonal restrictions.

Sustainable Jersey has a number of actions related to water conservation including the Water Conservation Ordinance, Water Conservation Education, Minimize Water Consumption and Rain Gardens. In late February 2017, we are adding new green infrastructure actions, including a Water Loss Audit and the Stormwater Management Ordinance.

By using water more efficiently and by using more water-efficient products, we can mitigate the effects of drought.

But, drought or no drought, water conservation needs to be a way of life.  If you agree, here are a few things to get you started.

  • Lead a Water Conservation Education Program: Water conservation is not possible without the support and participation of residents and businesses that consume water. It is essential our communities get information on the benefits of water conservation as well as water conservation techniques. Encourage your local green team to do a Water Conservation Education program for residents and local businesses. You can focus this program on the drought. Use the Sustainable Jersey action to learn more: Water Conservation Education Program.
  • Get a DEP Municipal Drought Awareness Kit: DEP can provide you with its free Drought Awareness Kit for New Jersey Municipalities. This kit includes ready-to-use flyers with conservation tips, a media release template and more. To request a drought awareness kit, contact:
  • Change Your Habits: Every drop counts; for example, a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day. Here are a few tips to save water from DEP:
  • Don’t let the faucet run while brushing, shaving or washing the dishes.
  • Run your washing machines and dishwashers only when full.
  • Install water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators.
  • Fix leaky faucets.
  • Don’t wash your car at home – a car wash uses less water and recycles it, too.
  • With the end of the growing season, be sure to turn off automatic lawn and garden sprinkler systems.

For more NJ water supply status information and to view the DEP Drought Administrative Order, visit: To learn new ways to conserve water, visit


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