New Jersey could really use a heavy dose of rainfall. More than one, actually. But for now, Garden State residents can make the most impact in the quest to conserve water and avert serious water shortages in the future.

A drought watch remains in effect since late July for Bergen, Essex, Hunterdon, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.

And in the latest update from the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 65 percent of New Jersey was in the 'Moderate Drought' category based on above-normal temperatures and scarce rainfall. The entire state is at least 'Abnormally Dry,' the U.S. Drought Monitor indicated.

The storm system Hermine was originally projected to deliver heavy bands of rain to New Jersey over Labor Day weekend, but the storm spared the Garden State.

There are currently no mandatory restrictions on water usage in place, but according to Lawrence Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, all residents are strongly encouraged to reduce their use of water, particularly when it comes to watering the lawn.

"Lawns don't need more than an inch of water a week to remain healthy," Hajna said. "You can basically time your watering to give the lawn just the right amount of water it needs without wasting water."

It's recommended that lawns be watered in the morning or evening, as doing so in the middle of the day could result in as much as 50 percent water loss due to evaporation.

By law, sprinkler systems should be equipped with an automated switch that disables the system following rainfall.

Inside the home, Hajna said, water can be saved by using washing machines and dishwashers only on a full load, and by turning off the faucet while shaving or brushing teeth.

"Look for any little plumbing leaks that might exist in the house," he added. "If you see a little movement in the toilet, that could indicate there's a slow leak."

Other water-saving tips from the DEP:

  • Use a broom to sweep the sidewalk, rather than a hose
  • Use a rain barrel to capture water to use later for watering gardens and plants
  • Use mulch and native plants to conserve water in the garden
  • Install water-saving shower heads and faucet aerators

According to Hajna, "every little bit adds up," and New Jersey residents have the ability to save millions upon millions of gallons per day by practicing water-saving habits.

"We're all in this together and we really all have to pitch in and keep our fingers crossed and hope we get some good soaking rain soon," Hajna said.

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