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State says parts of county in drought

October 16, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Maryland Department of the Environment has added part of Washington County to areas across the state in a drought emergency, and the County Commissioners said Tuesday they may impose water use restrictions to conserve water.

Laurie Bucher, director of environmental health for the Washington County Health Department, said drought emergency status was assigned to areas in the county east of Fairview Mountain that depend on wells for water, including the towns of Clear Spring and Sharpsburg.

Bucher said reservoir levels in the county are normal, so the status does not apply to citizens using public water.

The emergency status was based on stream flow, ground water levels and precipitation, she said.

The county's Drought Advisory Committee will meet within a week to make recommendations about possible restrictions, Bucher said.

According to the Department of the Environment's Web site, Washington County east of Fairview Mountain has ground water levels significantly below normal and has drought emergency conditions similar to those in Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Howard, Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties.

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Those counties have been under a drought emergency declared by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and subject to water use restrictions since Aug. 27, according to the Web site.

Bucher said the decision to impose water restrictions locally is up to the commissioners because the governor has not yet declared any part of Washington County under emergency status.

"It's up to the commissioners what they want to do with it," Bucher said.

Commissioner Bert Iseminger said the town of Middletown in Frederick County, which borders Washington County, has stopped issuing new building permits because the wells are going dry.

"It is a problem, and it's not that far away," Iseminger said.

County Health Officer William Christoffel said the recent rain has not been enough to replenish ground water and that the county has a "long ways to go" before that happens.

"It hasn't even begun to recharge the ground water," Bucher said.

The commissioners said they wanted to hear from the Drought Advisory Committee before they made a decision on whether to mandate water restrictions.

"We need to establish a basis and say here's where we're at and here's where we want to get to," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said a water expert will discuss the county's ground water supply with the commissioners on Oct. 29.

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