Gail and Helmer Pearson live in a house on a hill on a 15-acre farm in Sharpsburg, Md., with three cows, two horses and a rising fear that their well will run dry.
Since June, the Pearsons have used paper plates, limited showers and hauled their dirty clothes each week to a laundromat.
Pearson, who works for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, planted three trees this spring but has abandoned two. She couldn't ignore the crimson maple she planted in honor of her father, who is seriously ill.
The cows have little grass to graze; what remains is crunchy. Even the thistle, a spiny weed with a three-foot root, is dying.
Pearson doesn't want to know how much water remains in the 250-foot well. She's not sure they could afford to drill a new one.
"I am really paranoid about running out of water," she says.