State may open taps

Glendening expected to ease restrictions on water use today

Optimism grows with rain

Drought committee to recommend plan to the governor

September 01, 1999|By Michael Dresser and Greg Garland | Michael Dresser and Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

With streams running higher than usual, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is expected to ease today the mandatory water-use restrictions he imposed last month to deal with the state's persistent drought.

The governor's office said last night that last week's storms cut the state's rainfall deficit by nearly 2 inches and that Marylanders' conservation efforts cut water consumption by 16 percent.

Glendening said he was "optimistic that we will be able to provide some relief" from the curbs after his Drought Emergency Coordinating Committee makes its recommendations today.

"I have asked the drought committee to review the figures and recommend whether we can lift the restrictions, either statewide, as a phased-in approach, or on a regional basis," the governor's statement said.

Glendening imposed the restrictions Aug. 4 to deal with the state's worst drought since the 1930s.

Homeowners were banned from watering lawns or washing cars and told not to fill pools or hose off sidewalks and driveways. Most businesses were asked to reduce water consumption by 10 percent; some, such as golf courses, had restrictions imposed on them.

The restrictions brought complaints from some businesses that are heavy consumers of water, including golf courses and sod farms. Local governments found themselves investigating complaints about water scofflaws -- often turned in by their neighbors.

Many of the restrictions that were hurting businesses were later lifted or modified. Three days after the restrictions were announced, they were amended to allow commercial carwashes to remain open. State officials later allowed sod farmers and landscapers to water new sod and shrubbery at construction sites.

Critics also questioned the governor's decision to impose water restrictions statewide, noting that water supplies varied across Maryland.

Potential options

Mike Morrill, a spokesman for the governor, said some areas got much more rain than others during last week's storms -- one reason the task force will look at the possibility of loosening restrictions on a regional basis.

"When the governor imposed the restrictions, the entire state was in extreme drought and it was getting worse for everyone," Morrill said. "Now it is clear that some areas are doing better than others."

The task force could recommend easing rather than lifting restrictions, such as allowing Marylanders to water lawns once a week.

Glendening said the task force would continue to monitor water levels, noting that September and October are often among the state's driest months. He said residents and businesses should continue to conserve water.

The governor's upbeat assessment yesterday came even though hopes were dimming that Dennis, now a tropical storm, would bring much-needed rain to Central Maryland. Weather forecasts for Maryland called for no rain before Sunday.

Rivers, reservoirs improve

The state reported that the average flow of eight major rivers was running at 115 percent of normal for this time of year after a week of heavy rain in many parts of the state. Last week, the flow was running at 48 percent of normal.

The rain helped cut the rainfall deficit for the first eight months of the year from 11.5 inches to 9.7 inches statewide. Baltimore's reservoirs added 1.1 billion gallons -- bringing water levels to 39.4 billion gallons from last week's 38.3 billion.

Last week's thunderstorms helped restore nearly normal flow for this time of year to the state's two largest rivers. As of Saturday, the Susquehanna River was running at 96 percent of normal and the Potomac River at 92 percent.

Pub Date: 9/01/99

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