DEP declares drought warning in 14 New Jersey counties

Officials have issued a drought warning for 14 of New Jersey's 21 counties due to a lack of rainfall and dwindling water supply conditions.

Environmental Commissioner Bob Martin signed the order Friday for Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.

The designation enables the state to more closely manage reservoir systems. It also elevates the need for residents and businesses in those counties to reduce their water use.

Many areas in the state are up to a foot below normal rainfall.

This has impacted reservoirs across the state, with the biggest impact felt up in Bergen County where some lakes are around 50 percent capacity, well below the typical 68 percent levels where they should be this time of year

"Without knowing how much precipitation we are going to get over the fall and winter to replenish our water sources, it is vital that every resident and business step up efforts to voluntarily reduce water use in the hopes of averting a water emergency and mandatory restrictions," Martin said in a statement.

A drought watch calling for voluntary water conservation remains in effect for Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties.

Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties are not under any watch or warning because they have received near or above-normal rainfall over the past several months.

To reduce water usage, the DEP suggests turning sprinkler systems off automatic timers, using brooms to sweep sidewalks instead of hoses and to upgrade showerheads to low-flow versions.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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