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Some areas monitoring water usage

January 28, 2002

Some areas monitoring water usage



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY
andreabh@herald-mail.com


Several counties and towns in the Tri-State area have asked residents to conserve water - and may impose mandatory restrictions - because drought has depleted water supplies.

The Tri-State area - including Washington County, Berkeley County, W.Va., and Franklin County, Pa. - has seen limited precipitation and is in the "drought watch" stage, said meteorologist Jim Wiesmueller of the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

Precipitation levels are 4 to 5 inches below normal for the last three months, Wiesmueller said.

"It's not a critical situation but it's one that bears watching," he said.

The Washington County Water and Sewer Department has asked about 200 Mount Aetna water customers to conserve because water levels in the two springs and well which serve the area are "well below normal," Department Deputy Director Jim Bishop said Saturday.

"The springs are down to a point where we have very little success getting water out of them," he said.

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The water level in the well also is "well below normal," Bishop said. Work crews this week will install a new, bigger pump about 100 feet below the current pump - which is positioned 255 feet deep - in an effort to pick up more water, Bishop said.

The county has been hauling water from the City of Hagerstown to help boost water levels, he said.

The voluntary conservation notice could become mandatory if drought conditions continue to worsen or if the temperature warms to the point that customers begin using more water for such outdoor activities as watering lawns, said Greg Murray, director of the county Water and Sewer Department.

"We're hoping the situation will improve," Murray said Saturday.

City of Hagerstown water customers have not yet been asked to conserve water, City Water Department Manager Gene Walzl said Friday.

The Berkeley County Public Service Water District's Board of Directors on Jan. 15 issued a voluntary water conservation notice to all the district's customers because such natural water sources as Le Fever and Ben Spreck springs are lower than they have been in years, Water District Executive Director Paul Fisher said Friday.

Board members also approved a contingency plan that includes tighter restrictions and rationing if drought conditions worsen.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a drought watch with a water conservation notice for central Pennsylvania that's been in effect for months, said Ken Myers, borough manager for Greencastle, Pa.

The drought watch is the first of the three drought stages under the state's drought-operating plan. It calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction of nonessential water use. A drought warning, the second stage, calls for a 10 to 15 percent voluntary reduction in water consumption. A drought emergency imposes mandatory restrictions on water use, according to the state DEP Web site.

Water customers in Mercersburg, Pa., were asked in September to start voluntarily conserving water. Customers in Waynesboro, Pa., were asked in December to start conserving, the Web site states.

Myers said water consumption levels are "significantly lower" because water customers in Greencastle have heeded the notice.

"Our customers are being cooperative, and we appreciate it," Myers said.

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