Drought warning issued for more than half of New Jersey

NEW JERSEY — A drought warning was issued Friday for New Jersey that affects 14 counties, urging residents to reduce water consumption.

Counties in the northern, central and coastal areas of New Jersey are under a drought warning, the New Jersey Department of Environment Protection announced Friday.The counties include Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.

The drought warning helps government agencies better preserve and balance water supplies in order to prevent serious water shortages in the state. Residents and businesses are urged to seriously decrease their water use as much as possible.

During a warning, the DEP can better manage reservoir systems and maintain water supplies. The DEP more closely manages water transfers among systems, controls releases from reservoirs and modifies the rate of flow in rivers and streams to balance the needs of water suppliers with ecological protection, according to a DEP news release.

A drought watch remains in effect for Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties. A watch recommends residents to conserve water.

Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties received normal or above-normal amounts of rainfall this year and are not under a drought warning or watch.

“The situation in our reservoir systems that serve some of the most densely populated regions of New Jersey is becoming more critical, with some systems dropping to half their capacity or less,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a news release.

“Without knowing how much precipitation we are going to get over the fall and winter to replenish our water sources, it is vital that every resident and business step up efforts to voluntarily reduce water use in the hopes of averting a water emergency and mandatory restrictions.”