Md. set to act as water levels hit record lows

Glendening, panel to discuss specifics of drought emergency

City has its driest February

March 06, 2002|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

With reservoirs, wells and streams in Maryland at record lows for the season, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is preparing to declare a drought emergency in parts of the state and impose mandatory restrictions on water use, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

"We are definitely moving toward a drought emergency," said Susan Woods, a spokeswoman for the governor. "The data [are] all there."

Eighteen Maryland counties are under drought watches and warnings, which call for voluntary cuts in water consumption.

Glendening plans to meet next week with the water conservation advisory committee he established during the 1999 drought. They will discuss which regions of the state should be included in an emergency declaration, and what mandatory restrictions would be imposed, Woods said.

"The central portion of the state has some of the more serious drought indicators," she said. But the problems are not isolated there. "We could very well end up with emergency situations in other parts of the state later on."

Baltimore has just experienced the driest February, amid the fourth-driest winter, since record-keeping began in 1871. But the parched conditions extend well beyond the city.

In a report to be issued today, federal hydrologists say the flow of water in Maryland streams has fallen below record lows set in the 1960s, and in some cases in the 1930s.

More than two-thirds of the 30 streams monitored in Maryland and Delaware, and seven of 17 wells, were at record lows by the end of last month, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The flow of fresh water into the Chesapeake Bay was just half of normal rates for February, and stream flow on the Potomac River was almost 24 percent below the previous record low for the month, set in 1934.

Water levels in Baltimore's reservoirs have dipped below the lows reached during the summertime drought in 1999. The city is drawing 40 percent of its water needs from the Susquehanna River.

Across Maryland, mandatory restrictions on water consumption have been imposed in 13 communities in Allegany, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick and Washington counties, according to the state Department of the Environment.

In a March 1 letter to USA Today, Glendening said Maryland is "heading toward one of our most severe droughts ever. In the next few weeks, it is almost certain that portions of our state will be in a drought emergency, and many of our neighboring states are already there."

A statewide drought emergency was declared Monday in New Jersey, and a warning issued yesterday in Delaware. Parts of Pennsylvania have been under emergencies since mid-February.

Bernie Rayno, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather, in State College, Pa., said rainfall deficits accumulated since 1998 have exceeded 20 inches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"It's very serious," Rayno said. "If we get into a stormy pattern, we could make up a lot of this deficit. But to make up all this deficit this year - it's probably not going to happen."

He said he was "encouraged" by a more "dynamic" weather pattern that has begun to allow cold air to plunge south out of Canada, and moisture-laden storms to move eastward into Maryland. That's what produced the abundant weekend rains. More is forecast for this weekend.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.