- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

BALTIMORE Mandatory water restrictions could be lifted in eastern Maryland within a month as a wet fall brings water levels closer to normal, a state official said.
Parts of central Maryland, however, could be months away from building water reserves to a level at which officials will drop drought restrictions.
"We're considering what action to take at this point," said Bob Summers, director of the water management administration at the Maryland Department of the Environment. "I think things have improved to a much better degree in the eastern region."
In August, Gov. Parris N. Glendening ordered businesses in central and eastern Maryland to cut water use by 10 percent because of depleted reservoirs. The stepped-up Level II restrictions also banned most outdoor water uses in all but the three westernmost counties and Calvert, Charles, Prince George's and St. Mary's counties in Southern Maryland.
Charles Porcari, the outgoing governor's spokesman, said the governor is being informed of conditions throughout the state.
"We are looking at options," Mr. Porcari said.
In the past three months, many streams have recovered to nearly normal levels, but groundwater levels remain below average in central Maryland, and some wells are at emergency levels, Mr. Summers said.
Groundwater conditions have started to improve, however.
"A couple more months of this kind of rain, and we should be back into normal levels," he said.
Joseph Hoffman, executive director of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, said parts of the state still have "a long way to go in making sure that the groundwater is there."
But Mr. Hoffman said well-timed rains have improved conditions throughout Maryland.
"We've seen some good recovery, but we still need to respect that water and use it wisely," Mr. Hoffman said.
In Frederick, which was among those hit hardest by the drought and remains under restrictions, the city's two reservoirs are full, said Marc Stachowski, the city's water chief.
Statewide, October rainfall averaged 6 inches more than double the average.
"We were way ahead in October, and that's what really helped us make up the deficit," Mr. Summers said.
So far, average statewide rainfall has been about an inch above normal in November.
"Those three months have really improved our situation dramatically," Mr. Summers said. "We just want to make sure that we're out of the woods basically, so we're looking at all of these indicators and are considering what changes to make."
Officials are worried about low levels in Baltimore city reservoirs, which could take at least three more wet months to get back to normal, Mr. Summers said.
While rain has helped, the city's reservoirs are only up to 51 percent of their combined capacity well below the 79 percent capacity they normally are at this time of year.
"So the reservoirs in the city are our major concern right now," Mr. Summers said.


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