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Md. water use restrictions modified

August 09, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Playing sports on a drought-ravaged field can be dangerous, so the Washington County Board of Education's athletic fields are being watered, but no laws are being broken thanks to modified water-use restrictions, said Eugene "Yogi" Martin, Washington County physical education activities director.

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A field that has had little water over several months can be a hard and unforgiving surface, Martin said.

"It can be like falling on concrete," he said.

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening last Wednesday announced mandatory water restrictions that included a ban on watering lawns and filling or topping off private pools.

Two days later Glendening allowed four statewide exceptions to the water restrictions.

Within certain guidelines, watering athletic fields, newly planted or seeded lawns, washing paved or outdoor surfaces and operating commercial car washes are allowed, according to a Quentin Banks, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

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Banks said the four variances were granted in response to calls made to the governor's hotline.

The exemptions are statewide and no applications are necessary, he said. Exemption applications need to be made for all other restrictions imposed by Glendening, he said.

Those caught violating the restrictions will be subject to fines and criminal charges.

Hagerstown City Police investigated six reports of water violations since last Wednesday but no arrests had been made by Monday, according to interim chief, Capt. Robert Hart.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department had issued some warnings, but had made no arrests.

The restrictions are expected to remain in effect until drought conditions ease.

The National Weather Service says little rainfall is forecast for the area.

Forecasters are predicting 80-degree temperatures and partly sunny skies for the next three days with a chance of showers Wednesday.

Hagerstown has received just 1.43 inches of rainfall this month. An average of 3.5 inches is typical for August, said meteorologist Jim DeCarufel.

If rain does fall on Wednesday it will have little effect on the county's drought status, said DeCarufel.

"No thunderstorm is going to help alleviate the drought," he said.

Only a lot of rain such as that accompanying a hurricane would make a difference, and such a rainfall isn't likely in the near future, he said.

The School Board, in keeping with the governor's water-use restrictions, has implemented a plan to cut water use by 50 percent, Martin said.

The governor's variance for athletic fields requires that they be watered from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and only until the seeds have rooted.

The school district has 41 practice fields and seven game fields, Martin said.

"We normally water the fields all day and all night. Now we'll just water them at night," he said.

Watering in the evening or early morning is better because the ground will absorb the moisture better, he said.

The county's fields are in good condition, but it wouldn't take much to dry them out, he said.

Martin said the governor's decision to allow athletic fields to be irrigated is sound.

"Football is a violent game, played partly on your feet and partly on the ground. If the field's surface isn't taken care of, kids can get hurt," he said.

For information of water-use restrictions, call the state's toll-free drought hotline at 1-877-437-6844 or visit the Web site at www.mde.state.md.us/drought.

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