Leak suspected in increase in Manchester's water use No shortage reported as search is on for cause

July 22, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Manchester's water use has suddenly increased at an alarming rate -- more than 2 million gallons a month -- and concerned town officials suspect an underground leak.

Several months ago, Manchester lifted a ban on outdoor water use that was initiated during last summer's drought. Current restrictions, however, require town residents to refrain from filling swimming pools or watering lawns, Mayor Elmer C. Lippy said yesterday.

"We haven't been able to find the leak yet, and may have to bring in outside help with more sophisticated equipment if we don't soon find it," Lippy said.

The mayor said high-tech listening devices, which can detect the sound of running water, must be used at night when extraneous noises are at a minimum.

The town's Public Works Department has begun a systematic search for the leak, sector by sector, Lippy said. Allowing three or four nights for each quadrant, it could take about two weeks, he said.

Lippy said past water shortages have led him to keep close watch on monthly water use. Residents used about 8.1 million gallons in May and 7.9 million gallons in June, which is more than 2 million gallons above average.

The suspected leak has not caused a shortage, he said, chiefly because a new water supply recently acquired outside of town is producing 130 gallons per minute, "a real gusher" by water supply standards, he said.

Lippy said he would be reluctant to reinstate a permanent ban on outdoor use, but would not hesitate to do so if the leak is not found.

Rainfall -- 5.9 inches in May and 6.1 inches in June -- was more than ample.

"My garden has done wonderfully," Lippy said. "But July [rainfall] is way down, so I've directed my assistant -- my wife, Mabel, -- to begin our own water conservation program.

"We recycle shower water, wash water and the water from a dehumidifier," he said. "That added up to about 512 gallons a week last year, and we used it on the garden."

The Lippys might add dishwasher water to their recycling efforts this summer, he said.

Other areas of the county are not experiencing water shortages, but use during the recent hot spell has officials preaching conservation.

In Taneytown, city officials announced Monday that outdoor water use will be banned, effective tomorrow.

The city of 4,700 used an extra 200,000 gallons daily during the weekend, severely challenging municipal water pumps and prompting the ban, officials said.

In Hampstead, where water supplies were critical last year, Town Manager Neil M. Ridgely said water use is up, but no moratorium is anticipated.

"That's always subject to change," he said. "Ground water is adequate because rainfall has been adequate, for now, and we're fortunate to have two new wells on line, partially as a result of the panic we had last summer," when consumption climbed to nearly 500,000 gallons a day until conservation efforts lowered the level to 400,000 gallons a day.

Ridgely said "adequate" should not be misinterpreted. "We're not suggesting that town residents go out and use it needlessly," he said.

G. Michael Evans, director of public works for the county, said he expected to issue a statement today encouraging South Carroll residents in the Freedom District to limit their outdoor water use voluntarily.

"We will ask that residents be prudent and conservative," he said.

Pub Date: 7/22/98

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