- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

FREDERICK, Md. Residents of Maryland's second-largest city might have to endure temporary water shutoffs this summer, much like California's rolling electrical blackouts, unless they conserve more now, officials said.

The warning, issued during a City Hall meeting of Frederick's largest commercial water users on Thursday, was the strongest sign yet of a looming crisis caused by the city's rapid growth and the continuing drought.

Despite abundant rain in March and April, the flow rate of Frederick's main water source, the Monocacy River, is slowing, city officials said. U.S. Geological Survey data suggest the Monocacy's flow could drop by early summer to a critical level that would prohibit withdrawals.

Water availability from two backup reservoirs, Lake Linganore and Fishing Creek Reservoir, is limited because of the drought, and a planned Frederick connection to the Potomac River won't be finished until four years.

"It is possible we're going to have to do some major reductions as time goes on," Public Works Director Fred Eisenhart said. "It's going to mean some hurt."

Largely voluntary conservation measures taken since Gov. Parris N. Glendening's drought emergency declaration for central Maryland on April 5 have cut Frederick's water use by just 2.7 percent far short of the 10 percent goal, officials said.

Since residential cutbacks go only so far, city officials urged businesses to check their plumbing closely for leakage and waste, and to consider changing some practices and equipment to save water.

BP Solar, a maker of solar-energy products, could cut its water usage up to 15 percent by reusing the 15,000 to 20,000 gallons a day it currently flushes in a reverse-osmosis process, said Brian Davidson, the plant's maintenance manager.

It could cost millions of dollars to implement such a change, he said. City and county officials said they were prepared to help, at least by ramming such projects through the permit approval process.

The city also elicited suggestions from businesses on marketing the conservation message more effectively to the public. One suggestion, offered by Mid Atlantic Medical Services Inc. representative Stephen Mauk, was to place flashing electronic billboards near interstate highway ramps, reminding people to take shorter showers and check for plumbing leaks.

Besides the drought, Frederick's rapid growth was threatening to outpace its water supply until the city stopped issuing building permits in March 2001. The city of 52,000 has grown 30 percent since 1990.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Thursday that more than half its monitoring stations recorded below-normal stream flows across Maryland and Delaware at the end of April.

Despite recent heavy rains, "much of the rain during extreme events, such as thunderstorms, may run off and cause flooding and will not contribute significantly to groundwater recharge," the agency said.

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