EDISON - Twelve counties in the Garden State are under a drought watch after a severe lack of rainfall.

The counties include Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset and Union.

The drought watch means that residents who live in these counties are asked to voluntarily conserve water.

"The forecast for the long term is that it's going to continue to be hot and dry, so we want residents to step up," says Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna.

Officials say residents should avoid washing their cars at home, make sure washing machines and dishwashers are full before using them and reduce lawn waters to only twice per week.

If the conditions get any worse, state officials could issue a drought emergency, which comes with mandatory water restrictions.