In Brief

New Jersey declares drought watch, first since 2016

By: - August 9, 2022 6:23 pm

New Jersey's top environmental official is asking residents to voluntarily conserve water until drought conditions improve. (Getty Images)

With precipitation levels below average in most of the state, New Jersey is now under a statewide drought watch and the state’s top environmental official is asking residents to voluntarily conserve water.

Shawn LaTourette, the state Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, announced a drought watch for all 21 counties in a statement Tuesday. This is the first time a drought watch or warning has been declared since 2016.

“Stream flow and groundwater levels are falling below normal for most of the state and some reservoirs are showing steep rates of decline as hot and dry conditions continue,” LaTourette said in a statement. “While water conservation is always important, it becomes critical during prolonged dry and hot periods like New Jersey has been experiencing.”

Year-to-date precipitation is down from the average in all but one New Jersey county, and in a dozen counties, it is as much as 25% below the average, according to the National Weather Service.

The declared drought watch is the first step in the state’s three-stage drought advisory system, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

If conditions don’t improve or continue to worsen, the watch could be upgraded to a drought warning or drought emergency where water conservation becomes mandatory.

New Jerseyans have experienced dangerous heat this summer. The latest heat wave — temperatures exceeded 90 degrees Tuesday, and it felt hotter — is expected to end Wednesday.

The state asked residents and businesses to cut back on using water for outdoor purposes, like watering the lawn, hosing off driveways and sidewalks, and washing cars. Other water-saving tips from the state include collecting rainwater and using water from air conditioners to water flowers, covering pools when not in use, using water-saving filters, and avoiding toys with a constant stream of water.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration asked New Jerseyans to conserve water after July’s rainfall was below average and some water reservoirs saw their levels drop.

Tuesday’s statement from the Department of Environmental Protection notes New Jersey is expected to experience more intense rain, prolonged hot and dry periods, and frequent dry weather as climate change worsens, citing a July 2020 report on statewide climate change effects.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.