HAMPSTEAD — Town Manager John Riley had hoped the higher water rates would attract large numbers of residents to a meeting on conservation.
But only 17 people attended Thursday's free seminar on water conservation, sponsored by the Vaughn Women's Club of Hampstead, the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, the town of Hampstead and the county Bureauof Water Resources Management.
"I am very disappointed," Riley said. "We had a lot of calls frompeople who were upset about the cost of their water last quarter, soI thought it would be a good time for people to find out how to savesome money."
Faced with a water shortage due to the drought last spring, Hampstead officials enacted a block-rate charge for water in June to encourage residents to conserve.
Residents using 5,000 to 20,000 gallons of water per quarter pay $1.65 per 1,000 gallons. The rate doubles for those who use more than 20,000 gallons, and triples for use of more than 30,000 gallons.
"The average water use in a majority of homes in Hampstead is 20,000 gallons or less," Riley said."We felt that not a lot of people would be penalized, and those who were would use conservation methods."
However, some residents would not save by conserving water.
"We have a well, so we wouldn't save money on a water bill," said Anglee Mandish. "But this summer brought the water situation to everyone's attention. We thought if the town is having problems, we would be, too."
Seminar participants were told that water is a finite resource. Although wells are recharged when it rains, only 10 percent of the precipitation that falls in Carroll returns to the water table.
"Sixty-six percent of the rain that falls goes right back into the sky or into plants," said Tom Devilbiss, a hydrogeologist with the Bureau of Water Resource Management. "Fifteen percent is surface run-off into lakes and streams." Another 9 percent is absorbed by the soil.
Residents were encouraged to save water by changing habits -- to save water drained off cooked vegetables to use for houseplants and to turn off the faucet while brushing teeth.
Fixing leaky pipes and toilets could save a household up to 15 gallons of water a day, said Catherine Rappe, chief of the Bureau of Water Resource Management.
The bureau offers water-saving hardware at $9 per kit for residents to install in their homes. Each kit contains aerating faucets and shower heads, and toilet dams for twobathrooms.
Aerators force air into the water so that less comes through the faucet or shower head. Toilet dams save by reducing water lost in a flush cycle.
Bureau members will present similar seminars to county non-profit groups. Riley, who started pushing for a county water conservation program five years ago, said the town would helppublicize them.
"Hampstead and Carroll have been plagued with water shortages for many years, and I thought this was the place to (start a conservation program)," Riley said. "It's taken us this long to get this far."