CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey has been placed under a statewide drought watch as the summer heat continues to sizzle the Garden State.
The New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette issued the drought watch on Tuesday.
It is the first step in the state's three-stage drought advisory system.
The watch is intended to "sow public awareness and appreciation of the stress upon water supply sources and encourage voluntary water conservation measures," the NJDEP says.
"Stream flow and ground water levels are falling below normal for most of the state and some reservoirs are showing steep rates of decline as hot and dry conditions continue," LaTourette said in a statement. "While water conservation is always important, it becomes critical during prolonged dry and hot periods like New Jersey has been experiencing. If residents and businesses do all they can to reduce water demand, together we can ensure ample supplies in the coming weeks and months."
Gabe Feliciano is trying to keep his backyard pool open and clean for the remainder of what's been a scorching summer.
However, Tuesday night's much-needed rain in Cherry Hill created an algae buildup, turning the pool water green.
"The sun hits the pool, the chlorine gets absorbed by the sun, and eventually the water evaporates and then we lose water. We would have to run our hose inside the pool for about three to hours, and it could be very costly," said Feliciano.
It's a costly fix that forces him to use more water than he'd like to during a drought.
If conditions do not improve, officials say a declaration of a drought warning or a drought emergency with mandatory water use restrictions may become necessary.
"A drought warning and then a drought emergency would be the next two steps in our three-tier system," LaTourette said during a virtual news conference on Wednesday.
He says it's too soon to say if or when we could reach those more emergent thresholds. For now, South Jersey neighbors say they're doing their part to conserve.
"We cut back on taking long showers, having to clean our cars. I don't water the grass as much," said Feliciano.
"We haven't really been watering our grass, just the plants," said Kristine Saldana of Cherry Hill.
The DEP says if you see someone using too much water, a gentle reminder and support is helpful. They're asking people not to call and report these issues.
The last drought watch or warning to be declared in New Jersey was in 2016. The last drought emergency with mandatory water use restrictions was declared in 2002.
Residents can get updated information about the status of New Jersey's water supplies at dep.nj.gov/drought.