Md. reconsiders water-use restrictions

Rain could prompt state to lift ban next week

panel reviewing options

August 27, 1999|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Back-to-back days of heavy, sometimes violent rain over much of Maryland are prompting state officials to re-examine water-use restrictions and to consider lifting them as early as next week.

"The governor's very encouraged, and we hope that this will give us an opportunity to provide relief," said a spokesman, Mike Morrill.

A drought task force advising Gov. Parris N. Glendening will meet Wednesday to review criteria for determining when restrictions, in place since Aug. 4, can be safely lifted, Morrill said.

He said the task force will look at the reservoir levels, consumption rates, stream flows, rainfall amounts and weather forecasts in making its recommendations.

The governor wants to be sure Maryland's water supply will be sufficient to last through the coming dry months before lifting the restrictions, Morrill said. "As soon as the long-term trends support lifting the restrictions, the governor will do so," he said.

That could occur as early as next week, Morrill said, but is unlikely to happen that soon. He said it depends on the task force review and its recommendations.

The governor's first steps toward lifting state restrictions came as a slow-moving low-pressure system dumped as much as 7 inches of rain in parts of Maryland late Wednesday and yesterday.

Rain continued to fall last night, with a sometimes-violent storm moving from northern Carroll into Howard and Baltimore counties and Baltimore and to the Eastern Shore by midnight -- blocking roads during the evening rush hour and felling trees and wires.

Glendening's decision to impose statewide mandatory water restrictions has drawn criticism. Critics say water supply problems vary widely across Maryland and that statewide restrictions were not necessary.

Yesterday, Glendening's administration granted a waiver on watering restrictions sought by the state's sod farmers. Sod farmers have said the lawn watering ban has all but put them out of business.

Although sod farmers can water turf on their farms under an agricultural exemption, their market was undercut because buyers were forbidden from watering new sod after it was laid.

Morrill said the waiver allows watering of newly seeded or sodded lawns or other plantings in areas of new construction, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., until the lawns and plantings can get established.

"It will be significantly beneficial to the sod industry and to landscapers and nurseries," he said.

Landscapers say builders have put many landscaping jobs on hold because of the water ban.

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