- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Recent rain hasn't been nearly enough to wash away fears of a drought threatening large parts of the region.
"April was the first month since September with above-average rainfall," said Susan Weaver of the National Weather Service. However, she said, "The drought is not over. We need several months of above-average rainfall."
"The last month or so has been pretty much on target for normal rainfall, but we are still 10 to 12 inches below normal," said Richard McIntire, spokesman for Maryland's Department of Environment.
The recent rain has been good for grass, trees and plants, but it may be weeks before it's known whether the water has soaked down to groundwater levels, which supply wells.
Water restrictions imposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening remain in effect in seven Maryland counties: Cecil, Carroll, Harford, Frederick and parts of Howard, Montgomery and Baltimore County.
The restrictions prohibit washing paved surfaces and watering lawns and plants, except with hoses that have automatic shut-off valves. Also forbidden is noncommercial washing of cars, trucks, trailers and boats. The restrictions will remain at least until the overall monthly report is made early this month, Mr. McIntire said.
The recent rain has changed drought declarations. Last week, Maryland was in a stage of emergency. That has been changed to a drought warning, he said.
Virginia officials were also cheered by increased rainfall.
"Absolutely, the recent rains have helped over the short term," said Kevin Hall, Gov. Mark Warner's deputy press secretary. But like Maryland, Virginia realizes the effects will be limited unless rain falls at extraordinary levels over the next few months.
"Groundwater levels have not improved much," Mr. Hall said, especially in Northern Virginia, the northern valley and Clark, Loudoun, Fauquier, Warren and Shenandoah counties.
Mr. Warner has appealed to residents to conserve water but is leaving it to local governments to declare emergencies and restrictions.
Early in the year, storms were breaking up over the Appalachian Mountains but never reached the Potomac Basin, said Joseph Hoffman, executive director of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.
"We are not out of the term of the drought period," Mr. Hoffman said, although water reservoirs in Frederick, Md., are filling and "our stream levels are doing well."
The reservoirs fed by the Potomac that serve the Washington area remained full.
Almost half of the wells in Maryland and Delaware have been at record-low levels, Mr. Hoffman said.
"I don't look for a whole lot of groundwater level improvements," Mr. Hoffman said, because grass and trees are drinking up the water before it can soak through.
Cooler weather is good because the 90-degree days a couple of weeks ago had the effect of evaporating the surface water, Mr. Hoffman said.

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