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Everyone appreciates a long cold drink on a 95-degree day, but too many people are serving up that refreshment to their lawns.

While water usage has gone up all over the county during the last two months' drought and heat waves, Hampstead is in the most serious shape. Town officials there are considering a ban on outdoor watering and charging violators $25 to $100.

"We have a lot of people just leaving a hose unattended, and the water runs off into the street," Hampstead Councilman William S. Pearson said. "I'd like to see a $100 fine for that if I could."

Pearson said he will try to persuade the rest of the council July 15 to impose such a fine for unattended lawn sprinkling.

The council learned last month that the 2,763 residents' total daily usage of town water rose from an average of 262,000 gallons in April to 347,000 gallons in June.

Union Bridge, New Windsor and Taneytown officials aren't worried much about their water supplies this year, but the other five Carroll municipalities all have at leastbegun asking residents to let their lawns get a little brown.

"I don't water my lawn and I don't water my shrubs and I haven't lost any," Mount Airy Councilman R. Delaine Hobbs said.

Mount Airy has a history of water shortages and imposed a ban as recently as two years ago, but Hobbs said the town of 3,993 is in good shape now because of two new wells.

Manchester has had a "voluntary ban" on lawn watering since June, said Clerk/Treasurer Kathryn L. Riley. Usage went up 30 percent that month, andthe town of 2,689 residents will consider a real ban if that rate continues, she said.

The town last had a two-week water ban on outdoor use in 1988, Riley said.

Westminster Public Works Director William S. Mowell said he will ask the City Council tomorrow to consider a voluntary ban on outside watering.

"We're suffering from the lack of rain, like all other towns in the area," Mowell said. "We have begun drawing off of our reservoir."

He doesn't remember a mandatory ban in the city of 14,059 residents since he began working there in1983. The water conservation ordinance says the city even can cut off a non-complying household's water supply, Mowell said.

Vandals opened four water hydrants in the Freedom District last month, draining 1 million gallons of water, said Wayne Lewns, chief of the Carroll County Bureau of Utilities, which operates the South Carroll water system.

One million gallons could have served the entire district for a whole day, he said, not to mention the danger had there been a fire. No one has been caught yet, but the fine for the crime runs up to$100, he said.

Still, Lewns said the water levels aren't low enough to consider a ban: "We're not anywhere near the stage where we'll be pushing the panic button."

So far, an attempt to get Hampstead residents to curb water use voluntarily hasn't made a difference, even with an increase in water rates starting this month.

"People do not listen," Town Manager John A. Riley said. "You can talk until you're blue in the face."

Riley said that unless the town gets substantial rains in the next week, a ban onoutdoor watering will be necessary. The fine probably would be as in the past -- $25 for a first violation and $50 for each subsequent one.

"Usually, the procedure isyou see them do it and you tell them, and most people will cooperate," Riley said.

One Robert's Field town house used 57,000 gallons in the last quarter, compared with an average of 15,000 to 18,000 for the town, Riley said. And all to water a lawn no more than 20 by 80 feet, he added.

"How in the world you could use that much water I'll never know," he said. "I should go down and look at the texture of this person's lawn and see if it's greener than the rest."

Taneytown City Manager Neal W. Powell said usage has gone up, but there's nowater shortage yet for the 3,526 residents.

He said the city had a ban during the drought of 1988 for a few weeks, but no fines were issued.

New Windsor's 842 residents hasn't had a ban for 10 years, Town Clerk Richard M. Warehime said. Union Bridge's 966 residents "never have had water problems," Town Clerk Kathleen D. Kreimer said.

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