The Heat Is Online

New Jersey Hit With Water Restrictions

Water use restrictions hit dry New Jersey,
March 11, 2002

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Residents in areas hit hardest by the drought won't be allowed to water their lawns this spring under water-use restrictions announced by the state Monday, one week after the governor declared a statewide emergency.

Only residents in central New Jersey and the northern coastal areas, where the drought is not as severe, will be allowed to water their lawns, said Bradley Campbell, state commissioner of Environmental Protection. In those areas, homes with odd numbers may water lawns on odd-numbered days, and even numbered homes may water on even-numbered days, officials said.

The order Campbell signed Monday also prohibits restaurants statewide from serving water unless it is requested by customers and bans all residents from washing their cars or boats.

Campbell's order divided the state into six drought regions. The northeastern and northwestern parts of the state have been hardest hit, with only a 100-day supply of water remains in some areas, he said.

Round Valley, the state's largest reservoir, is not able to operate at capacity, Campbell said. The most affected areas need 90 million gallons of water a day, and Round Valley can only pump 25 million gallons right now.

The state has been suffering through a drought since October 2000 and is in the midst of the driest winter on record. Campbell said the state would need two inches of rain every week for five weeks to return to normal water levels.

"Praying for rain is not a public policy, not a management strategy," Campbell told a Senate committee hearing testimony on the drought.

Commercial uses of water, including agriculture, would be exempt from the statewide restrictions, Campbell said. Newly laid sod, grass recently seeded or treated by chemicals, trees, shrubs and gardens are also exempted.

Campbell said the state also must address long-term water conservation policies. The last time those policies were addressed happened in 1996, using 6-year-old data, Campbell said.

Jeff Tittel, president of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said government mismanagement has made the state's water problems worse in recent years.

"A mud puddle in a parking lot gets the same protection as the major reservoirs in the state," he said.

The state's last drought emergency was declared in August 1999. The next month, Tropical Storm Floyd brought enough rain that the restrictions could be lifted.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press.