MANCHESTER — Calling the dwindling supply of water here threatening, the Town Council last night unanimously imposed a ban on outdoor water use.
The measure, which carries fines of up to $50 for watering lawns, washing cars, filling swimming pools or any other use of water outdoors, is the third such mandatory restriction of water consumption in the county.
"The water levels are getting lower," Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. said before the council voted to impose the ban. "It has to work. And if it doesn't, we'll have to take even more drastic measures."
Some of those "drastic measures" could include higher fines, suspension of service or restrictions on water use.
The ban followsmore than a month of voluntary measures and comes as the town's water and waste water superintendent called the continuing drought a threat to the town's system of wells and natural springs.
"My main concern is in the long term," said Steven L. Miller, the water superintendent. "People have got to conserve, have got to help us out. I wouldsay our water supply is in a serious state."
The council has beenconcerned with water use since late June, when the town's 2,689 residents were consuming more than 344,000 gallons of water a day. And while that figure -- equivalent to about 128 gallons of water per person -- has dropped to nearly 227,000 gallons now, the water available to town residents continues to drop.
A good portion of that drop can be attributed to a repaired water leak that wasted nearly 45,000 gallons a day for a month.
At best, the town's water system can deliver close to 400,000 gallons of water a day. But the levels of the three springs serving the town have dropped 30 percent, and water levels in the town's four wells are down by more than a foot, Miller said.
"We're not into a severe state yet, but we're just not getting enough rainfall to recharge our supply," Miller said. "If this continues, we will have ourselves a long-term drought."
The ban, the firstinstituted here since a month-long one in 1988, prohibits the use ofwater in any capacity outdoors. A first offense carries a fine of $25; subsequent offenses will cost $50.
Manchester joins Westminsterand Hampstead in outdoor water bans; New Windsor has a voluntary ban, while Sykesville, Mount Airy, Union Bridge and Taneytown have no bans of any kind.
The main target of the water moratorium are lawn sprinklers, Miller said. The average lawn sprinkler, town tests indicate, uses nearly 272 gallons of water an hour. If 30 homes are using sprinklers, more than 7,000 gallons of water -- enough to serve the daily needs of 55 people -- is consumed every hour.
The ban is not the result of town residents ignoring the council's voluntary water ban of last month, officials said.
"I just think they want to preserve whatever water we may have," said the town's projects administrator, David Warner. "Most people have given up on their lawns anyway. There looks to be a lot of brown patches out there."
Carroll County is joined by most of the rest of the metropolitan area in its quest to preserve water. Last month, the water system that serves Baltimore and parts of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties was hit withrecord-setting use levels of close to 400 million gallons a day.