Outdoor watering nearly dries up

Mandatory curbs obeyed, are largely unnoticed

Little rain predicted in area

August 12, 2002|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Life under mandatory water restrictions in the Baltimore area changed little during the weekend, and neither did the hot, dry weather that forced the new rules.

A trickle of extra vehicles turned up at carwashes as motorists were prohibited from hosing them down in the driveway. Gardeners warily eyed new plants that would demand hand watering, with sprinklers on the banned list.

"There's definitely a reluctance," said Carrie Engel, manager of the plant department at Valley View Farms nursery in Cockeysville, where shoppers shied away from purchasing thirsty new shrubs and trees. "I think they're waiting now to see how long the restrictions will last and what fall will be like."

However slight the adjustments in water use, city officials expect them to add up just like, well, drops in a bucket.

The restrictions that took effect Saturday are expected to continue until Baltimore's three water reservoirs, down to about half of normal capacity, climb back to 80 percent or 90 percent full.

The skies are not offering much help. Dewey Walston, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said yesterday that during the next week there is a chance of rain Wednesday or Thursday, but only the possibility of scattered afternoon thundershowers.

"There is no sign of any widespread rain at all," Walston said. "It took a long time to get into this drought, and it's going to take a long time to get out."

To prevent water shortages in the meantime, city officials announced last week the first mandatory water restrictions since 1999 for the 1.8 million customers of Baltimore's water system, including users in Baltimore city and county and parts of Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

Hosing down driveways, sidewalks and patios is prohibited under the restrictions. Ornamental fountains and waterfalls that don't use recycled water should be shut off. Unless requested, serving water in restaurants is discouraged.

Gardeners can use hand-held hoses to water plants, but automatic sprinklers are banned unless required to prevent the death of newly sodded lawns.

Kurt L. Kocher, a spokesman for the city Department of Public Works, said that residents in the city and surrounding areas have been cooperative. Even before the mandatory restrictions, Kocher said, he had noticed fewer buzzing sprinklers than in past summers.

"There's been a lot of conservation that's already occurred, but obviously not enough," Kocher said.

Residents face fines of up to $100 for activities such as lawn watering or car washing. There was no tally yesterday for how many warnings or tickets had been issued.

Other areas of the state have faced mandatory restrictions for months that closely mirror the Baltimore area curbs. In April, Gov. Parris N. Glendening banned washing cars, watering lawns and hosing down pavement in much of Central Maryland. Bans also were imposed earlier in parts of Carroll and Frederick counties.

"I think almost everybody was already restricting their use," said Tony Delange, owner and manager of Wash Works carwash on North Howard Street. He said he saw almost no change in business after the new rules took effect.

"The drought's not good for anybody," Delange said. "Except the people that bottle water, I guess."

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