State is asking residents, businesses to conserve water 6-month drought leaves reservoirs below capacity

December 17, 1998|By Heather Dewar | Heather Dewar,SUN STAFF

Warning that a six-month drought could lead to "severe" water supply problems soon, the Maryland Department of the Environmental is asking Marylanders to conserve water.

Streams, rivers, reservoirs and ground water are at below-normal levels across the state because of rainfall deficits over the past six months, MDE officials said. South-central Maryland has been hit hardest, with more than a foot less rain than normal. The Eastern Shore has seen a 10-inch deficit, while rainfall in Western Maryland has averaged 6 inches below normal during that period.

Baltimore's three reservoirs are at about three-quarters of capacity, but levels are higher than they were at this time last year, said Kirk Kocher, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works. The department has not asked its users to conserve, Kocher said, adding, "We're not anticipating any problems."

The risk of wildfire remains high in Western Maryland, though last week's rain reduced the danger in most of the state. MDE officials said several more inches of rain or snow are needed to boost water supplies back to normal.

Drought conditions prevail in much of the Mid-Atlantic region, from parts of Virginia to Pennsylvania. Water users in the Susquehanna River basin, including southern Pennsylvania and far northeastern Maryland, have been asked to cut back on water use.

MDE's drought warning, the agency's first in at least four years, asks commercial and industrial users as well as households to cut water use. MDE is urging people to check for leaks; a leaking toilet can waste 200 gallons of water a day. The agency also recommends taking shorter showers and turning off the water while brushing your teeth.

Pub Date: 12/17/98

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