Loch Raven Dam Jam focuses on enjoyment, protection of water supply

Dam Jam 2011 on Sunday, Oct. 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Cromwell Valley Park, will celebrate the quality of the Baltimore area's highly-rated drinking water.

The free, family-friendly festival features musicians, artists and historical re-enactors as well as displays from the Towson Arts Collective, wildlife exhibits, photo workshops and food vendors. Featured performers are Mosno Al-Moseeki, Feinwood Jammgrass and Jeremiah Clark.

But perhaps more importantly, Baltimore city and county officials see the day as a chance to educate people.

Residents can tour the inner workings of the Loch Raven Dam and learn about the city's reservoirs and watersheds — and how they can enjoy them as well as protect them from pollution.

"It is so easy to turn on the faucets in our homes dozens of time every day and take the convenience of safe, running water for granted," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "Dam Jam is an opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of our parks and reservoir lands and learn more about the source of Baltimore's high quality drinking water."

Families are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets and food baskets to the festival, which will be held outdoors in the Willow Grove Nature Center of the park, 2175 Cromwell Bridge Road. Even the "well-behaved and leashed" family dog is welcome.

This is the third time the city and county have scheduled an event in the park to celebrate the water supply.

The 2009 festival was rained out, 2010 was blown out by 60 mph winds, said city Department of Public Works spokesman Kurt Kocher.

"This year it will be perfect weather and we expect a mob," he said. A deluge might stop Dam Jam, but a drizzle won't.

For more information on the event, call 410-396-3500.

Water over the dam

It may be Loch Raven Reservoir, but some people might be surprised to learn that that 5-foot-thick torrent of water cascading over the dam is not their drinking water.

The "water over the dam" from the Gunpowder River, which feeds the reservoir, is not relevant when it comes to the water that city and county residents drink, according to Kocher.

The water they will drink has already been extracted — swallowed up by a 10-foot-wide pipe below the surface of the reservoir, which sends it miles away to the Montebello Filtration Plant in the city, where it will be purified before it's returned to the county.

The city owns all the reservoirs in the county, including Loch Raven, which features a water surface of 2,400 acres and can store 23 billion gallons.

The city tests water leaving the filtration plants throughout the day for quality and safety, Kocher said.

"We would know right away if something was wrong," he said. "We make sure the public is protected."

Kocher likes to show off the 650-foot-wide dam, which was completed in 1922 and rehabilitated in 2005, and which dumps water 82 feet down the length of the 288-foot-wide spillway.

From a political point of view, the best part of Dam Jam is it shows the cooperation between the city and the county, he said. Rawlings-Blake and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz will speak at 10:30 a.m.

"In the Baltimore region, we are fortunate to have one of the best-protected drinking water supplies in the nation because we work together to ensure that reservoir lands are protected," said Kamenetz in a statement. "Dam Jam is a great opportunity to explore this valuable resource."

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