Governor tightens water limits for Central Maryland, Shore

Businesses, industries must cut water use 10%

city at lowest level `ever'

August 28, 2002|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

The forecast said rain, but it was sunshine that poured down on Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday as he unveiled tougher emergency water restrictions for drought-stricken Central and Eastern Maryland.

Standing on a boat ramp more than 20 feet below the normal surface of rain-starved Liberty Reservoir, Glendening invoked Level Two water-use restrictions that tighten drought-emergency rules he imposed on much of Central Maryland in April and expanded the rules' reach to the Eastern Shore.

Among other things, the rules require business and industry to cut their water consumption by 10 percent.

"Central Maryland is in trouble," Glendening said. "Though we are thankful for the recent rains we have received, it is simply not enough.

"We may not control the heat or the rainfall," he said, "but we certainly control our own actions. Every drop of water counts."

Glendening said even-more-stringent water-use curbs are being developed in case the drought worsens.

Although rain fell yesterday on portions of the Eastern Shore, the drought continued to deepen elsewhere. Baltimore's reservoirs, normally 95 percent full at this time of year, stood at 47 percent of capacity, down from 54 percent Aug. 1.

Without more conservation or significant above-normal rainfall, there's a 125-day supply left for the system's 1.8 million consumers. "We are at the lowest levels we've ever been at," city Public Works Director George Winfield said.

In Frederick, where water shortages halted all new construction in February, city officials are looking at a 45-day supply in Lake Linganore. Options being considered include enlisting a fleet of 480 tanker trucks to haul water 24 hours a day from the Potomac River.

If Westminster doesn't get rain this week, that city plans to haul more than a million gallons of water a day to the Cranberry Water Treatment Plant, starting by the end of the week.

Eight trucks, each carrying 6,000 gallons of water drawn from a nearby quarry, will carry water around the clock to prevent the city's Raw Reservoir from dropping below a quarter of capacity.

The trucking would cost $12,000 a day. Officials hope to reduce the costs by hurrying a new well into production.

Worse than 1999

Glendening said the rainfall deficit this year is twice as bad as the one during the 1999 drought, when the state last imposed similar water restrictions. Groundwater and stream-flow levels are at or near record-low levels in much of Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore. He called these "the worst drought conditions since the 1930s."

"Even if we get rain tomorrow and it lasts a week, we are looking at a long-term issue," he said, adding that the solution demands enlightened political leadership at all levels and permanent changes in peoples' habits.

Although local leaders "overall" have cooperated in dealing with the crisis, Glendening said, "some local officials still do not see the link between urban sprawl and long-term water-shortage problems."

The Level Two water-conservation rules imposed yesterday apply to the entire Eastern Shore; all of Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, Cecil and Howard counties; all communities served by the Baltimore water system; and western Montgomery County.

Washington, D.C., suburbs served by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the rest of Southern Maryland remain under a drought watch, with voluntary curbs on water consumption.

Golf courses included

Marylanders living under the mandatory Level One restrictions, which apply only to residential users, have chafed for weeks at the sight of sprinklers running on golf course fairways.

The Level Two rules should change that picture, but not entirely. Watering of tees and greens will be limited to between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Fairway watering must be cut 30 percent, and roughs may not be watered.

Glendening expressed confidence that businesses and industries in the drought-emergency zone would abide by the new rules.

"It is clear from the last experience [in 1999] that most businesses are eager to cooperate," he said. And "we do have enforcement mechanisms if we are convinced a particular business is not meeting its goal." He added that local jurisdictions will monitor commercial compliance and impose sanctions on violators.

Baltimore City has no legal mechanism for fining businesses and industries that violate the limits, Winfield said. The fine for residential violations is $20.

Winfield said his department would police business and industrial compliance by monitoring quarterly bills sent to the city's largest water customers.

One of Baltimore's biggest water consumers, the W.R. Grace & Co., in Curtis Bay, has cut its consumption by 25 percent since 2000 and is looking for ways to meet the Level Two goal of another 10 percent cut.

"We're currently investigating whether or not we can recycle water we have used in our chemical manufacturing processes, and things are looking very promising in this area," said Betsy Mettee, the company's communications manager.

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