Garden State Withers Away as Drought Takes Hold

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Richard Ross

    It's not the worst drought New Jersey has ever suffered through -- yet.

    But water levels at some of the state's drinking water reservoirs are as little as half of what they should be for this time of year.

    At The Farm nursery in Closter, just a stone's throw from Manhattan, owner Ted Sollod looks over his four and a half acre patch of corn and pumpkins, and other than some sun burnt stalks, can't find anything to sell.

    "There is no corn," Sollod laments.

    All of which is the basis for the New Jersey DEP's decision to declare a Drought Watch across the state.

    Many parts of the state haven't had any substantial rain all summer long.

    "It's the driest summer since 1966," said State Climatologist David Robinson from his office on the Rutgers University Campus.

    And with a La Nina winter ahead, Robinson predicts average rain and snowfall with "no room for error."

    At United Water's Oradell Reservoir in Harrington Park, water birds stand where they should be floating.

    Spokesman Rich Henning said at 54 precent capacity, the reservoir is seven feet below it's full level.

    "We expect September/October to be a little bit drier but we don't expect it to be this dry," said Henning.

    The Drought Watch now in effect simply asks for voluntary conservation. If dry conditions persist, the next step would be a Drought Warning.

    But actual mandatory conservation would only come with a State of Emergency signed by Gov. Chris Christie, according to DEP Research Scientist Steve Doughty who said he is closely scrutinizing the situation.

    "But I don't think we're anywhere near that," Doughty said in an interview with NBC New York.

    Back at The Farm, which uses a large amount of water to keep its plants healthy, conservation took hold earlier this summer.

    Instead of using an overhead sprinkler system, owner Sollod switched to hand watering his hundreds of plants.

    But it cost him.

    "Many more college kids and high school kids were here this year than were in the past," said Sollod about the labor needed to save water and save his plants.

    As for homeowners, experts from United Water's Henning to Climatologist Robinson agree most homeowners over water their lawns.

    They do it "by 50 percent" according to Robinson.

    And Henning said lawns need water at most "only every three or four days."

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY