As bright sunny skies blanket the region this weekend, state and local officials reminded residents this week of the downside to the pleasant weather.
The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a drought watch on Thursday for five Northern New Jersey counties, including Essex, while West Caldwell officials urged residents to limit the use of sprinklers to the early-morning hours.
"I still see a lot of sprinklers going on during the day," Councilman Stanley Hladik, chairman of the water committee, said during Tuesday night's council meeting.
"Please run your sprinklers for your lawn between the hours of 12 midnight and 5 (a.m.). It helps the water pressure. You'll cover a lot more surface area and put the water to good use."
Mayor Joseph Tempesta pointed out that some municipalities have even passed ordinances to restrict the use of sprinklers during certain hours, but he and the rest of the governing body agreed that measure wasn't currently necessary in town.
However, Council President Joseph Cecere, who owns a landscaping business, said running sprinklers during the middle of the day can actually be harmful to the lawn.
"Watering in the middle of the day is a waste," said Cecere, who suggested doing it between 3 and 5 a.m. "It also brings fungus onto the lawn, which you're seeing right now devastating lawns. So you're probably doing more harm than you are doing good."
Bob Martin, commissioner of the New Jersey DEP, issued a drought watch on Thursday for Essex, Bergen, Hudson, Morris and Passaic counties.
Martin requested residents of these counties to voluntarily conserve water due to the hot and dry conditions as well as a significant drop in reservoir levels, especially the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission's Wanaque and Monksville reservoirs and United Water Company's Oradell reservoir.
"We are asking residents in these five affected counties to keep watch on their water use, to voluntarily reduce unessential water use due to a rapid decline in some reservoir levels,'' Martin said in the statement.
"Using water responsibly by voluntarily taking steps such as limiting lawn and landscaping water and cutting back on at-home car washing, could save millions of gallons of water daily.''
According to the DEP statement, a drought watch is a response to deteriorating water supply conditions, with a goal of raising public awareness and formally alerting all area water suppliers of the current conditions, to help preserve existing supplies and balance reservoir storage in the region.
The statement said that while water demands are generally below the peak levels experienced during the extremely hot Fourth of July weekend, which prompted Martin to issue a statewide water-use alert, demand remains higher than normal due to the ongoing weather conditions.
"We have been monitoring this situation very closely and have determined that this course of action, to initiate a drought watch, is now appropriate,'' said John Plonski, assistant DEP commissioner for water resource management.
The DEP offered the following water conservation tips:
- Do not over-water lawns and landscaping. Two times per week for 30 minutes in the morning or late evening is usually sufficient. Use a hose with a hand-held nozzle to water flowers and shrubs.
- To save water at home, fix leaky faucets and pipes.
- Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth and shaving.
- Run washing machines and dishwashers only when full.
- Use a broom to sweep the sidewalk, rather than a hose.