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DEP Wakes Up – Declares Drought Watch

Water Supply and Global Warming Measures Dead in the Water – Highlands Act Under Attack


Wanaque Reservoir looks fine (on July 1, 2010), but that can change in a hurry with extreme heat, high demand, and no rainfall.

Exactly one month ago today, On July 5, we warned: “DEP Asleep at the Switch as Drought Conditions Emerge

So where is DEP? NJ has had record heat and low rainfall for over a month. …

DEP is legally charged with supervising and managing the State’s water supply. The NJ Water Supply Management Act empowers the Governor to declare a state of water supply emergency and directs the DEP Commissioner to regulate water, monitor drought conditions, issue drought warnings, implement controls during a declared drought emergency, and enforce water restrictions. …

DEP is supposed to monitor indicators and issue drought advisories and voluntary water conservation measures long before conditions get so severe that mandatory water use restrictions are imposed.

The NJ State Water Supply Plan provides the science, policy, and overall management framework to address these concerns. But the Plan is outdated and the mandatory 5 year update is over 10 years late.

Today, DEP apparently woke up and issued a drought “watch” urging voluntary water conservation. A watch is the first step in more aggressively responding to drought conditions.

The drought watch comes at a time when the Highlands Regional Master Plan, which protects the reservoirs, aquifers, and water supply of over half the residents of the state from over-development, is under sustained attack by the Christie Administration and Republican lawmakers.

Republican Legislators have been meeting secretly with the Governor, while DEP has been holding secret “Stakeholder” meetings with landowners and local officials opposed to the Highlands Act. Republican legislators have introduced bills to suspend and to repeal the Act. Legal challenges have been rejected by the US Supreme Court and the NJ Supreme Court.

A suite of DEP regulations that protect water supplies also have come under attack by DEP Commissioner Martin and Lt. Governor Guadagno’s “Red Tape Review Report”.

The sustained attack on water supply protections comes despite the fact that global warming models for the northeastern US predict increasingly frequent and severe droughts. Thus, there is an even greater need to strengthen both water supply management and global warming emissions reduction and adaptation programs.

However, instead of strengthening and investing more resources in those efforts, DEP’s Office of Climate Change has been buried in a DEP reorganization. Funds dedicated to that program were diverted and were cut, and as a result, plans to implement the Global Warming Response Act have basically been put on hold.

This is insane.

Aug. 5, 2010

Contact:  Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna       (609) 984-1795


(10/P75)TRENTON- Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin today issued a drought watch for the Northeast region of the State, asking residents of  Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris and Passaic counties to voluntarily conserve water due to continued hot and dry conditions and increasing  concerns about reservoir levels.

The DEP has observed serious drops in some reservoir levels, especially the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission’s Wanaque and Monksville reservoirs, and United Water Company’s Oradell reservoir. Scattered thunderstorms may provide some welcome relief today and tomorrow but are not expected to appreciably improve the water supply situation.

Link to full release

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