Posted on August 20, 1999 at 15:41:38:
I used to hate it when I heard it was supposed to rain on the weekends -- especially during the summer. That meant no outdoor activities like swimming, cookouts, picnics, sightseeing. But as last weekend approached and I heard the weather forecast, I was delighted to hear something I used to dread -- a 70 percent chance of rain on Saturday and Sunday.
Even as those forecasts came true, it was not enough. It won't make much of a dent on this unprecedented drought. The damage is excessive and it would need to pour for a month or more for us to start seeing relief.
Like it or not, the governor has issued an executive order prohibiting water use in most cases, but he has provided an out.
In order to prevent a deluge of requests for exemptions relating to the governor's executive order, each county has been given authority to grant waivers to the restrictions.
In St. Mary's County, a three-member board has been set up to accept waivers. It took its first application August 16 and so far has received five, rejected two, modified another and granted two. However, this board -- the Drought Coordinator Committee -- can only make recommendations for waivers. The final judgment is made by county administrator Mort Smedley.
To apply for a waiver in St. Mary's County, you can get an application from the county commissioners office in the Governmental Center in Leonardtown.
In Calvert, County Administrator Joe Allman and Don Hall with Calvert County Emergency Management have been given the authority to review the applications. Up to this point, eight applications have been received.
Those seeking exemptions in Calvert County can get a Drought Emergency Application for Variance Form at the reception desk in the courthouse in Prince Frederick or access the county's website at: www.co.cal.md.us. You can also request a form by calling the Emergency Management Office at (410) 535-1600 (extension 301/302). Requests may be submitted by fax to (410) 535-5594, hand delivered to the County Administrator's Office in Room 209 of the courthouse or mailed to Drought Coordinator, c/o County Administrator's Office, 175 Main Street, Prince Frederick, MD 20678.
For all state information regarding the drought and the specific provisions of the governor's statewide water use executive order, the web address is: www.mde.state.md.us/drought/variance.
And please adhere to these restrictions. If you don't you're breaking the law and you could face trouble you don't really want to simply because you don't like a brown lawn. Penalties for violators range from a warning to a fine of up to $1,000. You could also face up to six months in jail for violating the governor's order.
I know a lot of people have felt that the governor has been somewhat Draconian in imposing his water restrictions. But when you don't know what the future holds -- and we don't know when an extended period of rain will come our way -- it's better to err on the side of caution. So I believe the governor is right to do the cautious thing.
And if nothing else, this drought has made us look at a problem that has existed before the rains didn't come. That's why I am hosting a public forum on September 15 at the Calvert Pines Senior Center in Prince Frederick at 10 a.m. to talk about our aquifers here in Southern Maryland.
At this meeting, we will discuss the water levels in the aquifers that supply our area water as well as the reasons why so many of our local wells are failing. Key officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment, the U.S. Geological Society and the Maryland Department of Resources will be present. In addition to hearing proposals from these officials, you will be able to ask them questions that either concern or confuse you about this very complex issue.
I'm confident that some enlightening discussion among the public officials and the general public will lead to some real progress and I look forward to seeing you there.
But before this meeting, let's see what we can do do reduce water use in Maryland. Assuming one out of every two Marylanders (approximately 2.5 people) decide to conserve water we can:
* Save 12.5 million gallons of water per day and 375 gallons per one by reducing our time in the shower by one minute.
* If we turn our faucet off while brushing our teeth, we can save 10 million gallons of water a day or 300 million gallons a month.
* If we put a full load of laundry in the machine, we can save 26.25 million gallons of water a day or 787 million gallons of water per day.