Home > Uncategorized > Christie DEP Very Late In Declaring Drought “Watch” – Relies On Voluntary Measures

Christie DEP Very Late In Declaring Drought “Watch” – Relies On Voluntary Measures

Politics Trumps Science and the Public Interest (Again)

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Yesterday, the Christie DEP issued a drought watch for portions of the State. A watch is just the first step in getting DEP involved in managing the State’s water supply, which is their duty and lead responsibility under State law.

Because Governor Christie has blocked the update of the State Water Supply Master Plan, the public has no information on NJ’s water supply management, or ability to participate in the many critical policy decisions about how NJ’s public water resources are managed during drought (and who pays for and bears the risks and impacts of those decisions).

Those critical decisions are made behind the scenes, mostly by private water companies, DEP political appointees, and local government water authorities. This is a profoundly anti-democratic approach to managing a vital public resource.

The DEP “drought watch” comes very late, is limited in scope, and stresses “voluntary action”. Here’s why:

North Jersey Has Structural Drought Conditions

North Jersey lacks adequate reservoir storage capacity per capita – just 76 billion gallons. That is small, small compared with NY City’s 550 billion gallon storage.

NJ relies on rivers – water is pumped from rivers to reservoirs and also taken directly for water supply. But Rivers are getting too polluted to take water from during low flows.

Plus, up to 20% of water leaks from the ancient infrastructure.

Demand is higher than NYC due to things like lawn watering and swimming pools. And trees – more in NJ than NYC – consume a lot of water via evapotranspiration.

All these factors put huge “stress” on water supplies.

Therefore, given these structural conditions, NJ needs to be far more conservative in issuing drought warnings and more aggressive in water conservation.

DEP Was Not Conservative and Ignored Data

The DEP’s partial indicators of drought – rainfall deficits, low stream/river flows, declining reservoir storage, and groundwater levels – have shown “stress” for MONTHS, yet DEP did nothing.

There are reasons for that delay in acting that are unique to the policy and leadership of the Christie DEP:

1) Christie/Martin (C/M) oppose regulatory mandates from DEP – note the emphasis on “voluntary measures”

2) C/M do not respect government competence and defer to the private sector water companies – ideologically part of their “the private sector knows best and “privatization” policy;

3) C/M defer to local government and oppose “unfunded mandates – See Executive Order #4. They oppose State DEP leadership as top down bureaucratic red tape from Trenton.

4) C/M have no environmental management experience and do not respect or listen to their professionals.

5) C/M oppose and frequently simply reject the concept of planning of any kind and are hostile to or simply ignore science as “esoteric”.

6) C/M are more interested in and focused on the Governor’s political aspirations than in managing DEP and protecting the water supplies of the state.

7) A drought and mandates from DEP hurt the Gov. with the Republican base in primary States, who hate government, environmental agencies, and mandatory government requirements.

Seven sins. And we pay for them.

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