The state Senate Environment and Energy Committee Monday urged the Department of Environmental Protection to release an updated Statewide Water Supply Plan for public comment within 30 days.

The state is working with a 22-year-old plan, last released in 1996, said New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Public Policy Coordinator Drew Tompkins.

“It’s long overdue ... even though legally it’s required to be released every five years,” Tompkins said. “Working on old data is not sustainable for the state.”

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The committee heard testimony from several people in favor of releasing the plan, and no one in opposition.

Resolution SR93 in support of releasing the plan, sponsored by Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, passed unanimously. It also urges citizens to conserve water and encourages the DEP to revise the plan after taking public comment, and to adopt it within six months.

{span}”It is critical that the legislature take action to urge the NJ DEP to release this report, before we have a true emergency on our hands,” said Bateman.{/span}

Much of the northern and central parts of the state have been under a drought warning since October.

“We’re in another drought. Unless we figure out what threats there are to the water supply, we are going to keep making mistakes and creating more problems,” said Jeff Tittel, of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Tittel said DEP officials have said since 2012 they have a draft plan written. They just aren’t releasing it.

“It’s more than just a plan. It lays out for every major watershed in the state what the issues are confronting that watershed,” Tittel said.

The state DEP denied Monday the lack of a water-supply plan is a problem.

“We are managing New Jersey’s water supply every day while developing the draft Water Supply Plan. When the draft plan is complete and ready for public comment, we will release it and schedule public hearings,” DEP spokesman Bob Considine said.

“In the meantime, DEP already has the necessary tools and authorities to manage water supply in the state during wet or dry periods,” he said. “We continue to identify and institute policy options for resiliency and infrastructure.”

Tim Dillingham of the American Littoral Society said estuaries that act as nurseries for commercially important fish depend upon an amount of fresh water mixing with salt water.

Without updated data “we run the risk of undermining critical parts of our economy,” Dillingham said.

A coalition of groups has an online petition that will be sent to Gov. Chris Christie, asking him to approve a new water supply master plan, at saveh2onj.org/sign-the-petition/.

Contact: 609-272-7219 MPost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

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In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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