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  • Outside Water Use Restricted in Md.

    A course official surveys the browning grass on the 1st hole on the "Blue" course at Congressional Country Club. (Micheal Williamson The Washington Post)
    By Daniel LeDuc and Scott Wilson
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Thursday, August 5, 1999; Page B1

    Under the mandatory water restrictions imposed yesterday by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, homeowners must immediately stop sprinkling their lawns and hosing down their cars and driveways.

    Those people with pools, with some exceptions, must not fill or top them off. Ornamental fountains must be turned off, and golf courses must cut back the watering of fairways by 80 percent and limit sprinkling of greens and tees to the minimum necessary.

    Commercial car washes that don't recycle at least 80 percent of their water must shut down. Restaurants can serve water only on request. And there is a ban on open fires, but it does not apply to barbecue grills.

    The broad restrictions apply to all people, businesses and governments in the state whether they are on public water systems or their own wells. The restrictions mark the first statewide prohibitions by any state as the mid-Atlantic grapples with the worst drought in 60 years. Never before has Maryland taken such a step.

    "It will not be easy," said Glendening (D). "Some grass will die. Some shrubbery will die, including my own beloved azaleas. But in the big scheme of things, we know the grass will come back. Our cars will get dirty. But we can wash our cars later. Some swimming pool levels will go down, and fountains will sit silent. But we can fill the pools next year, and we can run our fountains next year."

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    Glendening said he was acting now to make sure there would be water in the future. He said state officials would monitor water use, stream and river levels, rainfall and water supplies at reservoirs and make weekly public reports. The goal is to reduce water use overall by 10 percent.

    Maryland Secretary of Environment Jane Nishida, who headed the drought task force that recommended the restrictions to the governor, said the prohibitions probably would be in place through the end of the summer.

    Businesses that use more than 10,000 gallons of water a day are required to prepare plans to cut their use by 10 percent in case tougher restrictions are required later.

    A drought information hot line has been established and is operating from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The toll-free number is 1-877-4-DROUGHT. Additional information is available on the state government Web site at www.gov.state.md.us; click on "Drought Emergency Information."

    Glendening said the prohibitions would be enforced by state and local law enforcement agencies. Residents who see violations can report them to police but are asked not to use the emergency 911 number. First-time violators will get warnings, but additional offenses could lead to fines up to $1,000.

    In Montgomery County, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) signed an emergency order allowing police to issue civil citations rather than take criminal action, with fines ranging from $500 to $750 for repeat offenders.

    "We wish to be fair and reasonable," said Glendening, who added that he thought more than 99 percent of the public would follow the restrictions. "We give local authorities the power to grant variances and exceptions for extreme hardship cases."

    The governor also said there were "common sense" exceptions to the restrictions. People with gardens may water them with a hand-held hose or bucket. Those with new swimming pools may fill them so they don't crack.

    Although all of the restrictions have to do with outside water use, Glendening also urged people to conserve water inside their homes by taking shorter showers, turning off faucets while brushing teeth and shaving, running only fully loaded washing machines and dishwashers and fixing leaky pipes and toilets.

    He has set aside $250,000 in state funds to help seniors and low-income people make plumbing repairs and buy water-conserving shower heads.

    The governor's order was applauded by some, but others chafed at the restrictions. Jarvis Bellamy's new $300,000 home in Anne Arundel draws water from a well, and he wonders why he must live under the same restrictions as those on public water and sewer systems.

    "As long as we're not taxing the public system and using our own supply responsibly, we shouldn't have to comply. But if it's the law, we will," said Bellamy, a computer analyst with the federal Office of Personnel Management.

    Many large water users held emergency meetings to discuss their conservation plans yesterday.

    The National Park Service said it would heed state restrictions, even though as a federal agency it was exempt. Already, rangers at Antietam National Battlefield have stopped washing government cars and watering lawns and flowers.

    Executives at Giant Food Co., meanwhile, decided to send a memo to 25,000 store employees urging them to curtail water use.

    They also decided to stop washing the outsides of their manufacturing plants and warehouses and the sidewalks outside their 176 stores in Maryland, Virginia and the District. Giant also will stop using huge grinders that chop up poultry waste, a process that requires a lot of water.

    At the Flagship Car Wash Center in Rockville, president Don Hinton said he was prepared. When he opened a full-service tunnel 10 years ago, he installed a water recycling system to make sure he could keep running during a drought.

    "It could be a boon for our businesses, and in some communities, these restrictions have been," Hinton said. "But we'd like it to rain."

    Staff writer D'Vera Cohn contributed to this report.

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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