2 of city's reservoirs are full again thanks to rain, record snowfall

Recovery from drought called `extraordinary'

April 01, 2003|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Yesterday's wild snow squalls were a cruel joke of March. But as April begins today, two of Baltimore's three reservoirs are full again. No fooling.

Six months of abundant rain and record snow have ended the long drought and filled Prettyboy Reservoir for the first time in almost two years. Loch Raven has been full since January. Even the laggard Liberty Reservoir is rapidly nearing its brim, Baltimore water managers said yesterday.

"We certainly anticipated some recovery, but to have this much was pretty extraordinary," said Baltimore Public Works spokesman Kurt Kocher. "We needed it, and we got it, and it's very fortunate we did."

More than 14 billion gallons of runoff have found their way into a parched Prettyboy in the six months since it touched a record low of 15.97 percent of capacity.

The wind yesterday morning was blowing water there over the lip of the dam. "By now," Kocher said later in the day, "it should probably be full to overflowing."

Liberty Reservoir, straddling the line between western Baltimore and Carroll counties, stood yesterday at 92.5 percent of capacity. That's up by 24 billion gallons from an October low of 34.4 percent.

Less than five weeks ago, Liberty stood at just 67 percent. It was last full in July 2001.

Loch Raven Reservoir, also overflowing yesterday, never fell below 72 percent of capacity through 12 months of scant rainfall. It was kept from draining lower by the discharges upstream from Prettyboy Reservoir, and by the city's decision to tap the Susquehanna River for extra supplies during the drought.

As a whole, the reservoir system stood yesterday at 96 percent of capacity. The average for April is 94.4 percent.

Since the rains returned in October, more than 28 inches of precipitation have fallen at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Nearly 11 inches have fallen in the last two months. February, which brought a record 28-inch snowstorm, was the snowiest month on record in Baltimore.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. officially ended the drought emergency in Central Maryland in February. But city water managers kept curbs on residential consumption until March 21.

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