- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday said he will declare water-use restrictions in central Maryland within a week and warned of more widespread restrictions to combat a lengthy drought.
Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, said he will announce his drought emergency restrictions after he receives recommendations from the Maryland Water Conservation Advisory Committee. The panel, which was set up after the 1999 drought, was at work at the State House yesterday to develop mandatory curbs on water use in central Maryland and voluntary curbs statewide.
Record low rainfall, stream flows and groundwater levels have placed central Maryland on the brink of a drought emergency, state environmental officials said.
Montgomery County's western, northern and northeastern portions which are served by wells rather than the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, whose reservoirs are full or nearly full would come under mandatory restrictions. So would Howard, Frederick, Carroll, Harford, Cecil and Baltimore counties, Baltimore city and the northern part of Anne Arundel County, which gets its water from Baltimore.
Initial restrictions would likely include curbs on outdoor uses, such as watering lawns, cutting water use at golf courses by 10 percent and asking businesses to conserve. If the rainfall deficit now at about 10 inches in the Washington-Baltimore region continues to grow, stricter measures would go in effect.
The next level of restrictions could include requiring car washes and other businesses that use large amounts of water to recycle it, limit their use or shut down operations, and allowing golf courses to water their greens only.
Dry conditions throughout the rest of the state have put all counties under a drought watch or warning, environmental officials said.
"Soon all of Maryland and the surrounding area will be stressed," said Mr. Glendening.
Because the drought began in the fall and has lasted through winter, when groundwater levels usually rebound, measures will have to target late winter and early spring activities, the governor said.
"Voluntary conservation … is not enough," he said. "We need a long-term strategy to make water conservation part of our daily lives."
Mr. Glendening said the drought already is worse than the summer 1999 drought and is part of a national and global pattern that could leave the world without enough water if people's water-use habits don't change.
"The day when Marylanders can take their water supply for granted is over," said Environment Secretary Jane T. Nishida.
Much of the East Coast is suffering through an extraordinarily dry winter.
Robert Summers, director of water management for the Department of the Environment, described it as "unprecedented" to have drought conditions this early in the year, saying the water resources were "typical of a late summer of a dry year."
New Jersey announced drought restrictions Monday prohibiting residents from washing their cars or boats and restaurants from serving water unless customers ask for it. Parts of Pennsylvania also are under drought emergency, and Delaware has begun voluntary conservation.
Precipitation has been below normal for six months, and last month was the driest February ever. The U.S. Geological Survey reported last week that water levels hit record monthly lows at the end of February in 21 of the 30 streams checked in a survey of Maryland and Delaware.
Baltimore already has reduced its water use by more than 6 percent through voluntary measures, officials said.
But the city's public works department has activated pumps on the Susquehanna River to slow rapidly declining water levels at its reservoirs, including Prettyboy in Baltimore County, which is just 31 percent full, said Mr. Summers.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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