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New Jersey Hit with Mandatory Statewide Water Restrictions



May 2, 2002

In the face of unusually dry weather conditions lasting over an extended period of time, Governor James E. McGreevy signed an Executive Order on March 4, 2002 [http://www.state.nj.us/infobank/circular/eom11.htm] declaring a state of water emergency and authorizing the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell, to develop mandatory water restrictions and conservation measures. At the time of signing this Executive Order, reservoirs in the State were well below normal, with some northeast reservoirs at 45% below normal levels. In the last decade New Jersey declared water supply emergencies in 1999 and 1995.

On March 11, 2002, Commissioner Campbell issued statewide mandatory water use restrictions [http://www.state.nj.us/dep/drought/ao02-05.htm], although there are some exemptions for the central and coastal north draught regions. Statewide washing of paved surfaces such as streets, sidewalks and patios with water is prohibited. In restaurants, clubs and other eating establishments a patron must specifically request water, it may not be automatically served. Washing vehicles, boats and non-commercial power washing of buildings and other surfaces are prohibited. However, vehicles can be washed by commercial car washes that use specific waste minimization measures or use recycled water. Although there is a widespread restriction on watering lawns, there are exemptions for the maintenance of newly laid sod or seeded grass, for commercial landscaping and for the entire central and coastal north region where lawns can be watered on alternative days during certain hours. In addition, trees, shrubs, vegetable and flower gardens can be watered.

One extremely controversial provision restricting the filling of pools was modified in response to public outcry. The restrictions now allow the topping off of existing pools, filling of pools that had to be emptied for cleaning or repairs and filling new pools. Filling of pools requires approval of the local municipal water supplier and is only allowed once.

In order to address long term concerns, the DEP plans a series of workshops and information sessions in each of the six regions to provide the public with opportunity to contribute to decisions about the drought. The first workshop in the series was held on April 18 in Atlantic County. Commissioner Campbell has also reactivated the water emergency task force which is comprised of cabinet members or their designates. This task force serves an advisory role to the Commissioner and also hears appeals on hardship exemptions.

Information about the drought restrictions is available at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/drought/