With Drought Warning Imminent, Water Groups Urge NJ Environmental Officials to Address Long-Term Drinking Water Needs

SaveH20NJ.org, an alliance of environmental groups committed to preserving and protecting the state’s drinking water supply, expressed growing concern over the diminished levels of New Jersey’s reservoirs on the eve of a drought hearing by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

On the heels of extremely dry spring and summer seasons and with drinking water reservoirs plummeting to approximately 50 percent capacity in North Jersey, the DEP has scheduled a public hearing on Thursday morning, a necessary step before it can issue a drought warning.

A drought warning for the following 12 counties — in which millions of New Jerseyans rely on the public water supply — could be issued as early as Thursday: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, and Union. Those counties have been under a DEP-issued drought watch since July. In addition, the DEP has expanded the drought watch to include Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Monmouth, Ocean, and Salem counties. All but three counties — Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland — are under a formal drought designation.

A drought watch seeks voluntary water conservation; the more serious drought warning enables the DEP to require water purveyors to take action to conserve and secure drinking water sources.

“The condition of the four largest reservoirs in the state — Round Valley, Wanaque, Spruce Run and Monksville — is absolutely dire. This action to designate a formal drought warning is extremely late, maybe too late. I hope declaring a drought emergency does not happen, but if it does, DEP need look no further for someone to blame than in the mirror,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.

The last drought warning occurred in 2001. However, this is the second consecutive year that the DEP has issued a drought watch. In addition to drinking water reservoir levels reaching dangerously low levels, the DEP has listed all stream flows and ground water levels for the entire state as moderately, severely or extremely dry for at least the past 90 days. The DEP publishes updates to drought indicators for the state at njdrought.org.

“New Jersey’s dwindling water supply is a growing concern to the millions of families and businesses who rely on an abundant supply of clean and affordable drinking water,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “Data and observation over more than a year have pointed to a water system in peril. While we applaud the DEP’s recognition of the worsening drought, we implore the agency to end its decades-long delay in adopting a long-term plan to preserve and sustain a clean drinking water supply.”

The NJ Legislature had the foresight and understanding to require proactive planning and ensure that NJ has enough clean water available to meet all of our needs. In 1981, the Legislature passed the Water Supply Management Act, and it requires that the DEP update the Water Supply Plan at least every five years. However, the last plan update happened in 1996 — 20 years ago.

“New Jersey’s Water Supply Plan is 20 years old and it fails to adequately plan for drinking water supply for NJ’s growing population. We need the DEP and Governor Christie to update and release the Water Supply Plan to ensure we have enough water to drink, grow Jersey Fresh Produce, support healthy habitats, recreation, tourism, and water dependent businesses in our state including Budweiser, Goya, and M&M’s,” Jennifer Coffey, Executive Director, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. “Clean water is essential to life, economy, and a healthy environment in the Garden State. Without the Water Supply Plan, the state government is gambling with our future.”

“The drought in North Jersey is a sign of things to come. Due to improper planning by the DEP, our residential and ecological communities will suffer far greater than if New Jersey released a water supply master plan years ago and implemented provisions to help deal with low supply and high demand. Residents should voice their concerns at the hearing and demand immediate action with a strong plan that protects our most precious resource.” Jaclyn Rhoads, Deputy Director, Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Tools and tips for water conservation in homes and communities including landscaping, leak detection, and best water practices can be found at: http://www.saveh2onj.org/

“We need to act now to protect our state’s water. Clean and plentiful water is essential for our economy and ecology. Threats to our waters threaten our wildlife, communities and economy,” Tim Dillingham, Executive Director, American Littoral Society

The public hearing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in the Millburn Free Public Library auditorium, 200 Glen Avenue in Millburn.

Reprinted with permission from the Association of NJ Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) and SaveH20NJ.org.

New Environmental Insights Program to Be Held on June 10th

How to Design and Implement a Rain Garden in Your Landscape

Become Water Wise and Protect Our Native Species

If you can only do one thing for the environment this season we suggest reducing some of our vast suburban monoculture by removing some of your lawn and planting a garden. If you plant a rain garden near a downspout to intercept roof runoff  and filled with native plants; even better.   It will help to slow the flood of storm water, reduce erosion, and absorb pollutants.  The birds, bees and butterflies will also repay your hard work by appearing regularly and pollinating your landscape.  And then enjoy the fun of watching wildlife up close!

What Are Rain Gardens?

Rain gardens are plantings that are specifically designed to soak up rain water from roofs, from driveways, parking lots, and lawns. When it rains, the rain garden fills with a few inches of water and allows the water to slowly seep into ground filtering out pollutants such as fertilizer, pesticides, and oil, rather than having it run into the waterways or storm drains. This purifies the water and lets it replenish the aquifer rather than having it flow unfiltered into streams, lakes or the ocean. The ground should not remain wet, but should dry in a day or so of fair weather. It is planted with native shrubs and flowers that can tolerate wet or dry conditions and add to the beauty of the neighborhood and attract wildlife.

Rain Gardens not only beautify your landscape, but also serve practical environmental purposes. Their interception of water runoff from impervious surfaces provides a number of benefits for your landscape. It acts to minimize the volume and improve the quality of water entering conventional storm drains and nearby streams. It also works to minimize soil erosion. It helps you provide a habitat for wildlife which can be sorely lacking in home gardens. And finally, the volume and quality of water is better whether it is absorbed in or leaves a rain garden.

Lindsay Blanton, our 2013/2014 AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador at NJDEP, will present using training materials created by Rutgers University.  She will teach the basic steps to building and maintaining this simple, proven and inexpensive solution to the problem of storm water pollution.

Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Hollowbrook Community Center, Nutrition Room, 320 Hollowbrook Dr, Ewing Township, NJ 08638
Cost:  Free and Open to the Public

Sign Up for Rain Garden and Rain Barrel Workshops

Rain Barrel Workshops

Sign Up Now!
Learn more about water conservation and how to harvest rainwater from your roof and divert it for on-site usage in the landscape.  The Ewing Green Team, in partnership with the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador program, will teach area residents how to build a rain barrel at two workshops this spring.  The fee for the program is $45 to cover the cost of the materials and must be paid in advance to allow us to purchase the kits from Rutgers University.  Each workshop will run approximately 2 hours.  Sign up today.

Event: Rain Barrel Workshops
Dates:  Saturday, May 17th
Time: 10 a.m. – Noon
Location: Hollowbrook Community Center

Rain Gardens

Rain Gardens not only beautify your landscape, but  also serve practical environmental purposes.  They collect water runoff and store it,  permitting it to be filtered and slowly absorbed by the soil.  This  interception of water runoff from impervious surfaces provides a number of benefits for your landscape.  It  acts to minimize the volume and improve  the quality of water entering conventional storm drains and nearby streams.  It also works to minimize soil erosion.   It helps you provide a habitat for wildlife which can be sorely lacking in home gardens.  And finally, the volume and quality of water is better whether it is absorbed in or leaves a rain garden.  Join the members of the Green Team at a presentation to show you how you can design and implement a rain garden in your yard.

Event: Rain Garden Workshop
Date: Tuesday, June 10th
Time:  7  – 8:30 p.m.
Location: Hollowbrook Community Center, Community Room

Sign up today to reserve your place in these workshops and take an active role in protecting our environment.