- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002

SYKESVILLE, Md. Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening declared drought emergency restrictions for most of the state yesterday while Virginia's Drought Monitoring Task Force was assessing worsening conditions there.
"Parts of Maryland are experiencing the worst drought conditions since the 1930s," Mr. Glendening said as he raised the drought status from "warning" to "emergency" in 16 of 23 counties.
Emergency status restricts watering lawns, use of various watering devices, irrigation, and washing cars and hard surfaces like driveways. It also requires most businesses and industries to reduce usage by 10 percent and prohibits eating establishments from serving water unless requested by customers.
Prince George's County and the parts of Montgomery County served by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission are exempt from the restrictions. The other exempt counties are Garrett, which has a "normal" drought status, and Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's and most of southern Anne Arundel, which are on "watch" status.
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner on Monday called the drought a "crisis," saying it has caused some businesses to close and, in Orange County, required importation of portable toilets. More than half of Virginia is rated in severe drought.
Yesterday, Virginia's newly named drought coordinator asked state agencies to immediately issue recommendations for dealing with the deepening water crisis, which agency specialists said has worsened in recent weeks.
David Paylor, deputy secretary of natural resources, called an emergency meeting of the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force.
Mr. Paylor said Mr. Warner especially wants recommendations on ways to improve water conservation efforts. He asked the task force members who represent various state and federal agencies to present him with their suggestions by this afternoon.
Task force members gave a sobering assessment of the situation and warned that no long-term relief is near, despite the likelihood of 1 to 3 inches of rain over most of the state in the next few days. Already, 45 Virginia counties have been designated disaster areas, while 34 counties have requested disaster declarations.
In Maryland, Mr. Glendening went to a boat launch ramp along Liberty Reservoir near Sykesville yesterday to emphasize the water shortage.
"See that foundation over there?" Mr. Glendening asked, pointing to a stack of concrete blocks. "We couldn't see that when we were here for the drought in 1999."
He pointed out that water normally would be up to the base of trees, but was down more than 35 feet.
Liberty Reservoir, west of Baltimore in Carroll County, was created in 1954. Elwood Hawes, a 78-year-old farmer who has lived all his life in the area, said yesterday, "I've never seen it as low as this."
Mr. Glendening said the rainfall deficit is twice as bad as it was during the last drought. Last month, the deficit was 16.7 inches below normal, compared with 8.3 inches below normal in July 1999.
State agriculture officials estimate farmers have been hit with a $15.6 million loss in corn crops and $3.8 million in soybeans, Mr. Glendening said.
Imposing a warning status enables local governments to enforce the restrictions and slap violators with fines, which may be $100 or more.
Mr. Glendening said that while local governments have been cooperative, there was only so much they could do. He then criticized the federal government for not taking action.
The city of Frederick may have to truck in water from the Potomac River because as of last week it had just over a month's supply of water in its reservoir.
"The [drought] record books have been broken," said Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty.
Mr. Glendening said the state will need several years of average rainfall or better before the water table rises to its normal level.
"It's going to take a long time to correct this," said George M. O'Donnell, president of the Queen Anne's County commissioners. He said he was having a 350-foot well dug on his property because his 270-foot well went dry three weeks ago.
Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens said many farm ponds in the southern parts of the county have dried up for the first time and wells are going dry.
She praised residents in the northern part of the county because "some have cut consumption 30 percent."
Urging residents to take voluntary measures, Mr. Glendening said, "We must make water conservation a part of our daily routine. We must reach a 20 percent reduction in our water use."

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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