Press Release

BALTIMORE (July 7, 1999) - In response to continued and widespread drought conditions, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) today issued a statewide drought warning, advising that continued dry conditions could lead to severe water supply problems for Maryland's public water systems and others. The department, which regulates public water systems, reminds Marylanders that while conserving water is a great idea at any time, it becomes especially important during periods of prolonged reduced rainfall.

Precipitation across Maryland has been below normal for the past six months. Maryland's south-central region has sustained the hardest impact with a six-month deficit of more than a foot, and the Eastern Shore has seen more than a 10-inch deficit in some areas. Western Maryland also is well below normal rainfall with a deficit of nearly 6 inches. The lack of rain has affected Maryland's streams and rivers with many flowing at below-average levels. According to information from the U.S. Geological Survey, water flow into the Chesapeake Bay from its three main tributaries dropped to record low volumes for the month of June.

The Susquehanna River that provides most of the fresh water flow to the upper part of the Chesapeake Bay is at 25 percent of its normal flow for this time of year. Groundwater levels, as measured in observation wells across the state, also are below average for this time of the year. While the Western Maryland water systems are not at a crisis stage, some have already experienced water shortages, such as the communities of Lonaconing and Carlos Shaft in Allegany County.

MDE officials recommend that water suppliers promote water-saving measures and that other water suppliers, including commercial and industrial operations, seek ways to reduce their consumption. The department also recommends that citizens check their homes inside and out for leaks, especially faucets and toilets. A dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons of water a day and a leaking toilet can waste 200 gallons per day.

Other recommended conservation measures include:

  • Turning off water when brushing teeth, shaving or shampooing
  • Taking shorter showers
  • Using laundry and dishwashers only when loads are full
  • Installing water-saving devices in the home, such as
    low-flow toilets
  • Curtailing outdoor water use

Conserving water not only assists the water suppliers, it also may benefit customers through savings on their water bill.

Officials from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources have advised citizens that despite the rainfall received last week, the risk of forest and wildfires across the state continues to be moderate to high. The recent rains did little to make up for the long-term deficit. Several inches of rain will be needed to bring conditions back to normal.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Data Report for July 6 rates 64 percent of the topsoil in the state and 81 percent of subsoil as either short or very short of moisture. Most of the state's crops, including corn, soybeans, and sorghum are still considered to be in fair to good condition. Tobacco, apples and peaches are withstanding the drought conditions best with more than 70 percent of the crop in good or excellent condition. Pasture grasses are fairing the poorest with 61 percent in fair to poor condition.