We're parched

Drought: Officials must begin to take measures to ensure an adequate water supply.

August 03, 1999

THERE'S little chance the current drought will end soon, and a task force formed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening meeting today should not be afraid to impose mandatory water conservation measures.

Rather than wait for matters to worsen, public officials should take measures to curb usage and ensure adequate water supplies are available for the people who depend on the Baltimore metropolitan water system.

Clearly, this is not a just a hot, dry summer. It has been like a desert in Maryland and around much of the country. The National Weather Service says we've gotten only 40 percent of our normal rainfall. Hydrologists say even if the normal summer thunderstorms returned now, they wouldn't recharge the soil or replenish depleted aquifers and reservoirs. Maryland apparently needs the kind of drenching that comes from a hurricane or tropical storm.

City officials say they have enough water in their reservoirs for 60 days; state officials believe the amount is closer to 35 days' worth.

At some point, Baltimore may have to tap the Susquehanna River, which it has done only eight times in the past 40 years. A federal judge is now considering whether the city has a right to take water from the Susequehanna. No one seems to expect a ruling before the drought ends, but the water crisis calls for a quick resolution.

The Baltimore water system's 1.8 million customers can't be trusted to abide by voluntary conservation measures, so mandatory restrictions will be necessary to extend the water supply.

Action needs to be taken now -- before supply runs out and area residents are left trying to squeeze water out of stones.

Pub Date: 8/03/99

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