THE BREEZY TECHNICOLOR days of May blossoms and deep blue sky have given way to brown grass and Code Red. Everywhere in the region, the worst drought in 30 years is shriveling crops and taxing water supplies, with no immediate relief on the mostly invisible horizon. Gov. Parris Glendening has declared a statewide emergency; in certain low-oxygen-level waters of Maryland, an estimated 1 million dead menhaden were discovered last week.
Summer is boring in with a scorching vengeance, and regional authorities may soon have to get even tougher than they have been so far in curbing garden-variety air polluters and water wasters. But because not everyone is under the same local and state restrictions, area residents are getting mixed signals about their uses of water and power.
The best system of uniform warnings and instructions on air pollution began about five years ago, when the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council came up with a simple alert system for air pollution. The idea is not just to tell people how bad the breathing is on a given day; each color in their code includes specific steps everyone can take to help clear the air. Red is the worst level, orange next. Without listing every suggested no-no, two deserve special mention: heavy use of motor vehicles and of gasoline-powered lawn mowers. Every summer in this region, lawn and garden equipment powered by gas is second to cars and trucks as a source of ozone smog.
And what about water use? Every summer certain jurisdictions impose strict regulations, some with sanctions. Other governments issue warnings or say nothing. While the laws in each city or county may differ, why not agree on a regional code for water levels, with more specific steps that could be taken throughout the area? It's the season for smart cooperation on fighting the weather.