More hot sunny weather is on tap for the rest of this week in New Jersey, with only a chance of a few scattered thundershowers Sunday.

It’s a great forecast if you’re planning to head down the shore, but with less than normal rainfall lately, there is growing concern about a possible drought scenario.

New Jersey State Climatologist Dave Robinson, who is based at Rutgers University, said rainfall totals have been well below average for quite a while.

“If you go to the far south of the state, they’ve been struggling to get out of deficits for the last two to three months. Meanwhile, if you take the northern half of the state it’s really been low in the precipitation department,” he said.

Rainfall totals are low

He said in Central and North Jersey, we’ve had rainfall totals “less than 25% of normal in some areas, less than 50% of normal in most of the region.”

WPG Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said “South Jersey got a good soaking in early July but even they have started to fall behind over the past week. Farther north, the last month-plus has been pretty parched, and lawns are starting to turn brown as a result.”

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He pointed out July is, on average the wettest month of the year in Jersey, but this year that hasn’t been the case.

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Abnormally dry

Robinson said “the National Drought Monitor considers the bulk of North Jersey as abnormally dry, and far South Jersey, focusing on Cumberland County, also in abnormally dry conditions.”

He said normally during the summer because it’s so hot “you get a moisture deficit even though you’re seeing the rainfall, and here we are not seeing the rainfall, seeing the sunshine, and the moisture is just getting sucked out of the ground.”

So what does all of this mean?

Robinson said river and stream flow is below normal, reservoir levels are dropping and the pace is quickening.

We're going in the wrong direction

“There’s a lot of indicators we have to keep an eye on, they’re not going in the right direction right now," Robinson said.

He stressed we have not crossed over into any drought stage yet but “’re going to have to watch it because we’re at a particularly vulnerable part of the year with the heat and any absence of precipitation things can dry out as we’ve seen very quickly.

Use common sense

Robinson said at this point it’s still okay to wash cars and water lawns and gardens “but don’t keep the hose running, don’t water every day, water a few times a week.”

New Jersey License Plate In A Garden
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He noted conserving water is always important but “particularly now when we’re in a particularly worrisome situation we have to be really careful.”

Zarrow agrees.

“It's not an emergency yet, but it is important we stay vigilant about water use in case we do spiral into a full-on drought situation as the summer heats up,” he said.

Robinson noted hundreds of volunteers and dozens of automated weather monitoring stations across the state are keeping track of precipitation conditions that people can check on at the state climate website.

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