Faced with a drought that shows little sign of ending anytime soon, Baltimore County officials said yesterday that they will begin providing free municipal water to county residents whose wells have gone dry or have diminished yields.
"We can't make it rain, but we can reach out and share the resources we do have with those people who are most directly hurt by the drought," County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said in a press release.
He emphasized the continuing severity of the drought, and reminded residents to do what they can to conserve water.
Stream flow and water tables remain at or near record lows throughout Central Maryland. Other counties, including Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard, have made water available to residents with failing wells.
Last week, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that wells in Baltimore, Harford and Montgomery counties have reached their lowest levels since record-keeping began in 1962, eclipsing the droughts of 1966, 1981 and 1999.
Baltimore's reservoirs have dropped below 45 percent of capacity, despite conservation efforts that have cut consumption by about 10 percent, according to the city Department of Public Works.
About 40,000 well-users live in Baltimore County, most of them homeowners, according to county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler. In contrast, 1.8 million people in the county use municipal water.
Since Nov. 6, the county has issued 394 permits for replacement wells, with 201 of those completed. About 80 percent to 90 percent of these new wells were needed because of the drought. The remainder were needed because of such nondrought issues as well collapse and water quality.
In Baltimore County, 193 people with permits for new wells are waiting for their wells to be completed.
County officials estimate that about 50 families with failing or failed wells will need to use on average 40 gallons a day of the municipal water that's being provided.
The largest percentage of dry wells are in places with concentrations of homes on wells, and in areas with poor geological conditions.
"We're seeing a lot of problems in the northwest part of the county [north of the Beltway and west of Interstate 83], and also in the Kingsville area," Kobler said.
Baltimore County residents may take containers to three county fire stations -- in Texas, Randallstown and Perry Hall -- from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends to collect water.
The stations are:
Station 17 -- 9835 York Road at Galloway Ave., Texas
Station 18 -- 3610 Brenbrook Drive, Randallstown
Station 55 -- 9325 Belair Road, Perry Hall.
To take water from the stations, residents will be required to complete a one-time survey and to fill out and sign a request for water each time. The county environmental department will track this information to determine whether to add additional stations.
"We would like anyone having any well problems at all to let us know, even if they don't need water, so that we can try to track the problem," Kobler said.
No limit has been set on the amount of water a resident can take, but anyone requesting more than 1,500 gallons must call the Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management at 410-887-2762 for authorization.