Frequently asked questions Fall Banner

New Jersey is divided into six drought regions – Northeast, Central, Northwest, Southwest, Coastal North and Coastal South. The drought regions generally follow natural watershed boundaries and account for regional similarities in climate and water supply sources, among other things. The drought regions allow the Department to respond to changing conditions in one region without imposing constraints in areas not experiencing a water shortage. The drought regions align with municipal borders because the primary enforcement mechanism for water restrictions during a drought emergency is the local police department. View a map of the drought regions and a list of municipalities by region.

The Department utilizes several drought indicators to assess the status of water supply and hydrogeologic conditions for each drought region. The indicators are precipitation, stream flow, shallow ground water levels, and reservoir storage (as applicable). Each indicator is weighted according to its importance within a particular region (e.g. reservoirs are a significant factor in the Northeast drought region because they are a critical water supply source there). The indicators are ranked according to the status of current conditions relative to a statistical average. Each is then evaluated as either: near/above normal, moderately dry, severely dry, or extremely dry. The indicators are one set of factors the Department uses to determine if a drought-related administrative action (i.e. watch, warning, or emergency) is warranted.

Absolutely. Since rainfall, water source, and water demand characteristics vary widely across the state, each drought region is evaluated separately on the basis of conditions there. As discussed in more detail above, drought regions enable the Department to evaluate water supply conditions on a focused geographical scale and act accordingly. It is conceivable that the water supply status in one region might be considered “normal” while at the same time one or more others may be under a designated Watch, Warning or Emergency.

Using water wisely can stretch existing supplies a long way and may avert the need for mandatory water use restrictions. The majority of water is used outside the home during summer to irrigate lawn and landscapes; unfortunately, much of that water is not used efficiently and ultimately is wasted. Watering your lawn once or twice per week for no more than 30 minutes is more than adequate to sustain your lawn. If it rains, there is no need to water. Also, watering your lawn after sunset and before 8:00 a.m. avoids excessive evaporation and reduces water waste. Remember to check for local water use restrictions as well as guidance from your water supplier. Often such restrictions allow for you to water on odd or even numbered days of the month, depending on your address. To save water and money in the home, fix leaky faucets and pipes, and turn off the faucet while brushing teeth and shaving. Install water conserving faucets and showerheads. Run washing machines and dishwashers only when full. View a complete list of water conservation tips.

Yes, when drought conditions are present, a single rain event does not erase weeks or months of below-average precipitation. In fact, it may take several significant storms or several months of more typical rainfall to reverse a precipitation deficit that developed over a long period of time. Every effort to conserve water stretches existing supplies and may avert a water emergency and the need to impose mandatory water use restrictions later. Moreover, we can all chip in to reduce the amount of water that is used every day. Increasing amounts of drinking water supplies are used outside our homes and offices from June through September for landscape watering and other “non-essential” uses. Overwatering of lawns and other greenery unnecessarily consumes millions of gallons of fresh water daily. Recognizing that irrigation is meant as a substitute to natural rainfall, there is no need to water after even a fairly moderate rainfall. For tips on how you can save water with relatively little effort or sacrifice, see the FAQ on “how to conserve water” above.

While mandatory restrictions imposed by the State of New Jersey are not currently in effect, the state has issued a Drought Watch and recommends water conservation. You should, however, check with your water supplier, municipality and county to ensure that no restrictions have been imposed at those levels. Furthermore, everyone should voluntarily use water wisely to help avoid the potential of a water shortage.

The State of New Jersey may only impose mandatory restrictions following a water emergency declaration by the governor. Restrictions are imposed through an Administrative Order signed by the DEP commissioner. When this happens, many agencies of the State coordinate to alert affected municipal/county governments, State and local police, and emergency management officials. Press releases are issued so that the media can inform the public as quickly as possible. The Department’s drought web site is also updated with current information and will list the municipalities where State-ordered restrictions may apply. This web site will also provide information when (and where) voluntary restrictions are being requested.

Yes. The State generally addresses statewide or regional water-supply conditions. Local conditions, such as water supply infrastructure constraints, water allocation limits, and/or excessive local use, may induce a municipality or water purveyor to impose local water-use restrictions. In these cases, the local municipality or water purveyor should provide related information to affected users.

Several New Jersey municipalities and counties have imposed their own water use restrictions, either on a seasonal or emergency basis, and you must follow them.  In the event the State does impose restrictions, you must follow whichever restrictions are considered more stringent.

If your drinking water is supplied by a municipal water department or municipal or county utilities authority, contact those agencies directly. Your city hall or county administration offices should be able to inform you about current restrictions. If a private water company provides your water, that entity should be able to inform you of any restrictions that may apply.

A drought Watch is an administrative designation made by the Department when drought or other factors begin to adversely affect water supply conditions. A Watch indicates that conditions are dry but not yet significantly so. During a drought Watch, the Department closely monitors drought indicators (including precipitation, stream flows and reservoir and ground water levels, and water demands) and consults with affected water suppliers.

The Watch designation is used to alert the public about deteriorating conditions; at the same time, water-supply professionals are reminded to keep a close eye on conditions and update contingency plans in the event that dry conditions continue or worsen. The public is encouraged to practice wise water use in order to preserve supplies.  View diagram at the bottom of this page.

A drought warning represents a non-emergency phase of managing available water supplies during the developing stages of drought, and falls between the Watch and Emergency levels of drought response. The aim of a Drought Watch is to avert a more serious water shortage that would necessitate declaration of a water emergency and the imposition of mandatory water use restrictions, bans on water use, or other potentially drastic measures.  Under a drought warning, the commissioner of the DEP may order water purveyors to develop alternative sources of water or transfer water between areas of the State with relatively more water to those with less.  While mandatory water use restrictions are not imposed under a Warning, the general public is strongly urged to use water sparingly in affected areas. View diagram at the bottom of this page.

A water emergency (sometimes called “drought” emergency) can only be declared by the governor.  While drought warning actions focus on increasing or shifting the supply of water, efforts initiated under a water emergency focus on reducing water demands. During a water emergency, a phased approach to restricting water consumption is typically initiated.  Phase I water use restrictions typically target non-essential, outdoor water use.  And while some indirect economic impacts may occur, the first phases of water use restrictions seek to avoid adverse impacts on the economy.  Those who deem themselves uniquely impacted by the restrictions can apply for a hardship exemption. View diagram at the bottom of this page.

Water Supply Status and Actions

Routine monitoring of water supply and meteorological indicators. All conditions normal.

Focus placed on voluntary reductions in demand through increased public awareness.

DEP Commissioner issues order urging public to voluntarily use water sparingly; DEP may issue orders to purveyors to manage supplies in most affected regions.

Governor orders mandatory restrictions on certain uses of water, usually phased in as conditions deteriorate.

Questions or comments?
Contact us