South Carroll's water worries intact despite consumption drop

August 25, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Residents of Carroll's most populated area are using more than a million gallons of water less a day this month than in May, county officials said yesterday.

In South Carroll, home to about 28,000 people, water use dropped from a record daily high of nearly 3.5 million gallons in May to 2.2 million gallons a day for the first 22 days of August.

The county banned all outdoor water use in South Carroll June 1, and modified the ban 15 days later to outdoor use on alternating days.

"I think people are taking the water crisis seriously," said Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services. "They are seeing this is not just a Carroll County problem, but one affecting the entire state. Usage has been down since the end of July."

But the decrease may not be enough to continue building in South Carroll, whose population has tripled since the 1970s. Without an increase in the supply, development cannot continue, Horst said.

The Freedom Water Treatment Plant, which can process 3 million gallons a day drawn from Liberty Reservoir, has operated at full capacity several days this summer. It then must rely on water held in several storage tanks.

In a report delivered to county commissioners yesterday, Horst attributed the decrease in demand to conservation and to bans on outdoor use.

"You can make anything you want of the numbers, but the 1 million gallons was probably water that would have been used outdoors," Horst said.

Max Bair, county administrator, said he would like every household to be aware of water conservation.

"Water is finite," Bair said. "It would be nice to see conservation year round."

The county has two plans to relieve its water problems in South Carroll, but neither option appears likely in the future.

Crews have located several promising wells on state-owned property at Springfield Hospital Center. The county is negotiating with four state agencies for easements to build the wells, which are expected to deliver as much as 1.5 million gallons a day. That agreement is stalled at the state level.

Carroll also would like to draw an additional 2 million gallons a day from Liberty Reservoir, owned by Baltimore. The city must approve that plan as well as a proposed plant expansion. The city is reviewing both proposals.

Without more water, building in the area could come to a halt.

"So long as other plans remain viable, we can continue allocating water," said Horst. "If we don't have anything on line, we will have to revisit our plans for growth."

The county typically allocates about 300 gallons a day per household. If it allows 200 new homes a year, it will reach its maximum allocation within two years, Horst said. If the wells are not operating and the plant expansion is not at least in the planning stages, South Carroll can no longer support new construction.

"We said several years ago that we could not allocate water above a certain target until we have additional production capacity in hand," said Horst. "We cannot keep allocating water to new building without commitments."

Pub Date: 8/25/99

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