Brown Is Beautiful

June 22, 1994

With daytime temperatures remaining in the 90s and little prospect for extended rainfall, Carroll's fields and lawns will probably be even more dried out at the end of this week than they are now. While farmers may pray for rain to save their crops, homeowners typically just turn on their faucets to maintain the deep green of their lawns. If current conditions persist, they may not be able to continue that habit.

Hampstead Mayor Clinton Becker has issued an emergency decree banning all outdoor uses of water in the town. County water officials are asking all homeowners in the Freedom District -- which has the only county-owned water system -- to voluntarily curtail their use of water. Other Carroll towns may be forced to impose their own restrictions if these conditions persist.

Extravagant use of fresh water is ingrained in everyday life. Most people don't think twice about washing their cars, about turning on an automatic sprinkler to wet down their lawns (and their walkways and driveways as well) or running the water while brushing their teeth.

Whenever we need it, we always seem to have a supply of fresh, pure water. It is only during these dry periods that water consumption becomes an issue, and the warning flags get raised.

At the moment, county water officials are worried that people illegally siphoning water from hydrants in the Freedom District could leave less water for fighting fires.

In the past, contractors and homeowners -- some looking for an easy, cost-free way to fill their swimming pools -- have tapped these hydrants. While getting large amounts of fresh water from the hydrant may seem like an innocuous activity, it isn't. In Baltimore City, kids turning on the hydrants in neighborhoods surrounding Johns Hopkins Hospital brought the local water supply so low that the upper floors of some of the hospital's buildings lost water pressure. People who fill up swimming pools from the hydrants endanger their neighbors and, we might add, themselves.

Most people understand the seriousness of water shortages. Hampstead's water consumption dropped by about 40,000 gallons a day once the ban was imposed. During this period, driving a dirty car or having a brown lawn should be considered badges of honor rather than shame.

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