Area still in drought despite recent rain

CRANBURY- Heavy restrictions still stand

By: Melissa Morgan
   Despite a moist March that drizzled the Cranbury area with some extra precipitation, residents shouldn’t assume the drought has ended. In fact, experts say, that water conservation will be extra important for the township during the spring and summer seasons.
   "We are still in a serious drought emergency," said Elaine Makatura, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. "In March, we had a little above 4 inches of rain, which is still below average. On top of that, we would need 2 more inches every week for the next four weeks to be anywhere close to average."
   Ms. Makatura said that while the previous month’s rain did help raise reservoir levels, all water restrictions remain the same, and people should voluntarily do anything they can to conserve water.
   Donna Peterson, spokeswoman for Elizabethtown Water Co., which supplies Cranbury’s water, suggests doing things such as turning off the water while shaving, making sure the water level in laundry is matched up with the load and taking shorter showers.
   "Every little bit counts," she said. "Summer is critical because people use a lot more water, and we want to get them prepared early."
   While Ms. Peterson stressed the importance of being prepared for more dry weather, she said people in the Cranbury don’t need to worry about a lack of water in case of emergencies, such as fire.
   "Cranbury is in the Central Drought Region," she said. "Our restrictions are less than surrounding areas and our sources are sufficient right now. We are actually helping neighboring towns with their supplies."
   As part of the Central Drought Region, Cranbury must follow an "odd-even" schedule. According to the state website, this means lawn watering can occur on even numbered days on the side of the street with even numbered street addresses, and on odd numbered days on the side of the street with odd numbered street addresses.
   Tom Witt, the director of Public Works and Purchasing in Cranbury, said that this should be any easy rule to follow.
   "We are in a good position being in the region that is least restricted," he said. "The rules for Cranbury are pretty lenient. People shouldn’t have to water their lawns every day."
   Mr. Witt said that the restrictions also allow the department to water Cranbury’s athletic fields between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., which, he said, is not a big change from last year’s schedule. He also added the water in Brainerd Lake indicates a good level and that the only significant change that residents might notice will be that the 3rd Centennial Fountain in Heritage Park will not run.
   However, the lack of water might play a more important role for residents like farmer Alan Danser. He hopes that additional rain during the spring and summer seasons can help his harvest.
   "I haven’t been affected by anything so far because I didn’t plant in the winter," he said. "But now we need rain through the growing season. The rain in March was encouraging, but you never know what will happen. You just have to plan for a normal season and hope for the best."
   Because agriculture has an exemption on water restrictions, Mr. Danser said, he will be able to water his crops, but he also relies heavily on rainfall.
   "A significant part of my farm is not irrigated, so I only depend on Mother Nature," he said.
   Lawn watering may be lenient in Cranbury, but other statewide restrictions prohibit washing cars, filling pools and serving water in restaurants, clubs or eating places unless specifically requested.
   John Kirkenir, president of the Cranbury Swim Club, said that since the Cranbury pool is always kept full during the winter, the club still plans to open on Memorial Day weekend as scheduled.
   "There will be some minor evaporation throughout the season, but the water needed to be added will not be an excessive amount," he said. "But if the pool was not full, we might have to truck water in from another state."
   Ms. Peterson said that even though people often use more water throughout the summer to fill pools and water lawns, it is more important than ever for residents to conserve in the upcoming months.
   "The recent rain has helped the drought from getting worse, but it will take a lot more rain to get back to normal," she said. "Right now, we have enough water, but we need to be securing it for the long term. If we don’t get back to normal, we will be looking at another drought next year."
   Information on the drought, including a complete list of statewide and area restrictions is available at or (800) 4-ITS-DRY.