BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection may issue a drought warning, because there has been so little rain, especially over the past few months.
The water level at the Oradell Reservoir is nearly immeasurable. The bottom is exposed and the muck is so dry it’s cracking, CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported.
Standing in the dried mud, Suez spokesperson Billie Gallo said “if we were at capacity, you would see 8 feet of water here. It would be over our heads.”
A result of annual rainfall running more than 10 inches below normal, Gallo said as of today their three reservoirs that serve 800,000 customers are at 44 percent capacity.
“Since the beginning of September, reservoir levels have dropped 10 percent,” she said.
Gallo said there is enough to keep water flowing into homes, but not enough to eliminate all concerns going forward.
It isn’t just Suez reservoirs taking a hit.
Throughout northern New Jersey, levels average nearly 20 percent below normal.
“Rainfall has been less than half of normal for the last 60 days,” Dr. Dave Robinson, a New Jersey State Climatologist at Rutgers University, said.
He said the driest conditions are in Bergen County, with some of it now under severe drought status. according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“Maybe once a decade do we see things that poor this time of year,” Robinson said.
The effects are noticeable — groundwater levels are down, stream flow has dropped, crops and trees are stressed.
According to N.J. DEP, 18 of 21 counties are under a drought watch, and the agency anticipates designating a formal drought warning for 12 counties, most in the northern half of the state.
The warning would allow the department to work with suppliers to balance storage across reservoir systems.
“If we don’t fill our reservoirs in these next 6 months, we’ll be faced with more substantial consequences come next May and June,” Robinson said.