Officials suggest saving water

Conservation noted as best way to delay summer restrictions

`That's the watchword'

June 09, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

With a wary eye on the weekend's high temperatures, county officials are hoping South Carroll residents will voluntarily conserve water and help delay inevitable restrictions on outdoor use.

Despite a cool, rainy spring, water demand is increasing daily, and Carroll officials are concerned the area's aging treatment plant will soon be at peak use, forcing them to impose a ban for the fourth consecutive summer.

"Things are still moist, and people don't need to water their lawns," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

But the fear is that a hot weekend will mean more lawn watering, pool filling and carwashing. By this time last year, water restrictions were in place because of unusually hot, dry weather and sudden increases in demand.

Demand is expected to soar this weekend with the high temperatures, said Gary D. Horst, director of enterprise and recreation services. Horst monitors the weather daily and is fretting about the weekend forecast, which calls for temperatures in the 90s. He plans to give the commissioners a weekly report on water use.

"I would hope that people would always pay attention to conservation - that's the watchword," he said. "We would ask that there are not quick and dramatic jumps in usage."

Concerns about shortages and lack of other water sources have county officials considering a moratorium on new-home construction in South Carroll. County planners have recommended no subdivisions be built until new water resources are available.

About 6,700 South Carroll homes and businesses rely on the public water system. Strong surges during hot weekends stress the 30-year-old Freedom Water Treatment Plant, which has daily capacity of 3 million gallons, water it draws from Liberty Reservoir.

Operating at full capacity for extended periods could lead to an equipment failure, said officials, who noted demand only hit its peak once this year, on May 7, when temperatures rose above 90 degrees.

"We have only one day where the plant ran full out," Horst said.

Demand reached 2.6 million gallons Saturday and dropped to 2.4 million Sunday.

During the same time period last year, the plant ran above its daily capacity for five consecutive days and hit a record high of 3.4 million gallons on Memorial Day. Those numbers forced the county to draw water from its storage tanks and impose a ban that lasted through September.

"As we have done in the past, we are trying to look at usage on a daily basis and look at storage so we are not caught by a sudden significant rise in demand," Horst said.

The county is pursuing options to alleviate shortages in South Carroll, but the projects have run into delays. Baltimore City, which owns Liberty Reservoir, has not approved Carroll's plans to expand its plant and increase its daily draw by 3 million gallons.

The state is holding up county plans to build wells along Route 32 and use ground water to augment the supply. That project requires a state permit.

"We have called and called to find out where our permit is, but the state has not returned those calls," said Gouge.

Without relief, another water ban and building restrictions loom, said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

"If we get a well permit, we won't have to put a moratorium on," Dell said. "If not, there will be restrictions."

The county may also revive plans to build a plant at Piney Run Reservoir and draw as much as 6 million gallons daily from a lake it owns. County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier has said several times that she favors the project, which is estimated to cost about $15 million.

Dell said he is awaiting a briefing from engineering consultants June 19 and the results of a cost analysis this month before deciding on Piney Run.

"Those studies will give me the direction as to where I will land on enlarging the Freedom plant or building Piney Run," said Dell.

Horst reported a vandalism incident Tuesday at the Liberty High water storage tank at Johnsville Road. Vandals used bolt cutters to get through the fence surrounding the 1 million-gallon tank and spray-painted the control room.

"There was no damage to equipment," Horst said.

He said that while South Carroll might face more shortages, its water has a great taste. The county won first place June 2 in a taste challenge sponsored by the Chesapeake section of the American Water Works Association.

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