The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection may issue a drought warning for 12 counties in the north and central parts of the state following a Thursday hearing to gather information from water suppliers and the public.
While South Jersey has had plenty of rain, some reservoir levels in New Jersey are at 50 percent or below their capacity because of below-normal rainfall the last several months, said DEP spokesman Larry Hajna.
Elevating a drought watch that’s been effect since the summer to a warning will allow the state to work with water suppliers to ensure no region has a significant shortage.
“It would give the DEP authority to transfer water between reservoir systems,” he said. “So, essentially, taking water from one system that may be in a better situation than another system and more or less balancing that out.”
The goal of a drought warning is to encourage residents to reduce water use and avoid an emergency declaration that would force mandatory restrictions.
“We would elevate our call for the public to reduce their water use and really try to impart on the public the growing severity of the situation so that they would step up and look wherever they can — and at whatever they can — to curtail their use of water,” he said.
State climatologist Dave Robinson said a rainy winter would ease drought concerns.
‘If we were to get one-and-a-half to two times normal precipitation for the next two or three months, we’d be in much better shape,” Robinson said. “But, frankly, even if we had average precipitation for the next six months, we’d be going into the next growing season in pretty good shape.”