- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 20, 2002

A soggy October has helped the dry Mid-Atlantic region but not provided enough to end water restrictions, environmental officials say.
"We are still in a drought," said Jim Shell, water resources monitor for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Though the amount of rain this month in the Washington-Baltimore area is about 1.67 inches above normal, specialists say much more is need.
"The rain has helped," said Melody Paschetag, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service. "But it took several months to get into [the drought] and it will take several months to get out."
The water restrictions across Maryland imposed July 8 by Gov. Parris N. Glendening are still in effect. On Wednesday they were extended to eastern Washington County, where residents depend largely on well water.
The situation in Frederick County is still so dire that water might have to be hauled into towns with nearly dry reservoirs. And work crews recently dug a well to provide residents with 700,000 gallons of water a day.
"We have enough water now due to recent rains," said Nancy Poss, a Frederick County spokeswoman. "And we expect the reservoirs to come back up to normal.
"The outlook is certainly sunny or should I say rainy?" she said, laughing.
Still, the long-range forecasts are more gloomy.
Mrs. Paschetag said normal temperatures are predicted for October, November and December but that precipitation will probably be less than usual.
This summer was preceded by a relatively dry fall, winter and spring so the pattern could repeat itself with even more severe consequences.
According to the National Weather Service which takes readings at Ronald Reagan Washington National, Washington Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International airports there is about a 15.94-inch rainfall deficit from September 2001 to September 2002.
The rains have partially refilled reservoirs in the Potomac Basin. Mr. Shell said the Jennings Randolph Reservoir in West Virginia has returned to 64 percent capacity and that the Little Seneca is 82 percent full.
Though the recent rains have indeed helped reservoirs, rivers and streams, they have trouble penetrating the hard, parched soil to replenish groundwater that supplies wells.
"Right now, groundwater is at a record low," said Saeid Kasraei, director of Maryland's Water Supply Program. "This cycle of drought has been going on for two years."
However, much of recent rains has come down so softly that it is reaching the water tables, said Joseph Hoffman, executive director of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.
"We've got to get groundwater back to normal level," he said. "Groundwater does not come back instantaneously."
The Glendening administration extended the ban to Washington County because of the groundwater problem.
The restricted areas are east of Fairview Mountain, including the towns of Clear Spring and Sharpsburg, said Laurie Bucher, director of the county's health department.

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