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State water use report likely to prompt more restrictions

June 21, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

State water use report likely to prompt more restrictions

Get ready for some new curbs on water use from the State of Maryland. They won't be enacted this week, but after the General Assembly hears a Maryland Department of the Environment report on how residential growth will affect water supplies, something will happen.

The MDE report, which will go to the legislature July 1, says that if growth upstream from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas continues at its present pace, there could be little water left for the big city if a drought occurs in the year 2030.

Possible cures cited in the report include digging more wells, tapping another river system or creating additional reservoirs. Of the three, the most promising possibility is creation of a new reservoir, like the Jennings Randolph and Savage reservoirs controlled by the Bloomington Dam in southeastern Garrett County, Md.

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The dam, planned in the early 1970s, took more than a decade and $11 million-plus to complete. It was opened for the first time in 1999 and raised the level of the Potomac by six inches. A new dam that stored more water could significantly ease the threat of a water shortage.

But those who remember the struggle to get the Bloomington Dam built know that this time around, dealing with property owners and the engineering challenges involved would be doubly difficult, not to mention time-consuming.

In the meantime, look for the state to propose new regulations on things like car washing, lawn watering and filling private swimming pools. There may also be new regulations to ban open burning, to reduce the possibility that fire companies would have to pump a lot of water to put out forest and brush fires.

Look for the state to also provide some new incentives for businesses which use water in their processes to recycle some of it. The bad news is that new restrictions are almost certainly on the way. The good news is that the region still has a few years to find and implement long-term solutions.

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