This story originally appeared on 6abc.
New Jersey has been placed under a statewide drought watch as the summer heat continues to sizzle the Garden State.
The New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette issued the Drought Watch on Tuesday.
It is the first step in the state’s three-stage drought advisory system.
The watch is intended to “sow public awareness and appreciation of the stress upon water supply sources and encourage voluntary water conservation measures,” the NJDEP says.
“Stream flow and ground water 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. “While water conservation is always important, it becomes critical during prolonged dry and hot periods like New Jersey has been experiencing. If residents and businesses do all they can to reduce water demand, together we can ensure ample supplies in the coming weeks and months.”
If conditions do not improve, officials say a declaration of a drought warning or a drought emergency with mandatory water use restrictions may become necessary.
At the end of July, Governor Phil Murphy asked residents and businesses to conserve water in New Jersey. Days later, the City of Vineland began implementing water use restrictions.
According to the NJDEP, more than 30% of water demand in suburban areas this time of year is for outdoor purposes, “much of which can be reduced or avoided.”
Officials say the public can make a difference by reducing the watering of lawns and washing of cars, as well as cutting back on nonessential uses such as hosing off driveways and sidewalks.
The last drought watch or warning to be declared in New Jersey was in 2016. The last drought emergency with mandatory water use restrictions was declared in 2002.
Residents can get updated information about the status of New Jersey’s water supplies at dep.nj.gov/drought.