BALTIMORE (December 15, 1998) -- 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, although 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.
For example, 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 most 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.
Last week's modest rains provided enough moisture to reduce the risk of forest fires in all but Maryland's four western counties. However, the rains did little to make up for the long-term deficit. Several inches of rain will be needed to bring conditions back to normal.
MDE officials recommend that water suppliers promote water-saving measures and that other water users 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.