- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

HAGERSTOWN, Md. Gov. Parris N. Glendening backed away from ordering mandatory water limits in central Maryland yesterday, citing rainy weather that could keep his conservation message from taking root.
The governor acknowledged that the recent showers "are literally just drops in the bucket" and said restrictions are still likely unless unusually wet weather continues. He urged continued voluntary conservation.
"It took six long months of dry weather to get us to this point, and the rain we received in recent days is not nearly enough to recharge our groundwater, to bring streams and rivers back to normal or to raise reservoir levels," Mr. Glendening said in a statement.
Most of the state received a quarter-inch to a half-inch of rain from Saturday through yesterday, and more is expected today and tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service.
Accumulated rainfall since Sept. 1 remains more than 12 inches below normal at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and by similar amounts at other measuring stations in the state.
"This did not put a dent in the drought," Weather Service meteorologist Dewey Walston said. "The only thing it could have done is stop the drought from getting any worse at this point."
It was enough, though, to prompt cancellation of a morning news conference in Frederick, where Mr. Glendening planned to declare a drought emergency in Carroll, Harford, Howard and Frederick counties, as well as Baltimore, Baltimore County and portions of northwestern Montgomery County and northern Anne Arundel County.
The announcement would have included prohibitions on most residential outdoor water usage and a mandatory 10 percent cut by nurseries, carwashes and other businesses that use water outside.
Mr. Glendening was dissuaded mainly by the prospect of issuing such orders in the rain, spokesman Michael Morrill said.
"If you go out in the middle of a rainstorm and say 'conserve' to people, it doesn't resonate with people to the extent it does when they see it dry outside," Mr. Morrill said.
Mr. Glendening asked all businesses and residents to voluntarily cut their water usage by 10 percent and to further conserve by repairing leaky plumbing, landscaping with drought-tolerant plants and using brooms instead of hoses for cleaning sidewalks and outdoor decks.
The decision was a relief to Rick Snell, president of D.R. Snell Nursery in Mount Airy. He said he would have lost $1 million in sales if the state had prohibited outdoor watering.
"When there are water restrictions, people don't come to nurseries to buy plants it's as simple as that," Mr. Snell said.
He said he would have had to lay off some of his 25 workers instead of adding seasonal staff for the springtime rush that normally accounts for about 70 percent of sales.
Mr. Glendening warned that mandatory restrictions are still likely.
"We still anticipate declaring a drought emergency for central Maryland unless the rain continues for much longer than predicted, and it will not be the only region to fall into emergency status if we do not take immediate steps to conserve water," he said.


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