As water use hits the high mark, lack of rain has caused water reserves to dip below average.
In the past week particularly, local use has increased significantly, said Wayne Lewns, chief of the county bureau of utilities. He has asked residents of the county-operated system in South Carroll to conserve water use.
"We are not in a panic mode," he said. "We are just asking people to curtail outdoor use."
In South Carroll, Freedom District Water Treatment Facility has been operating at or above its 3 million-gallons-per-day capacity for the past week, he said.
"We have been at full throttle since last Thursday and really saw an increase last weekend," Mr. Lewns said. "Water reserve tanks, which each hold 1 million gallons, are about 15 feet below capacity."
He declined to say at what level he would impose a ban on outdoor use for the 5,000 customers who use the Freedom system.
In July, the average daily flow at the Freedom plant was 1.6 million gallons per day, an amount that allows sufficient reserves to handle fires and other emergencies, Mr. Lewns said. In the past week, users have been averaging 2.6 million gallons per day.
Once users are made aware of the situation, they cooperate, Mr. Lewns said. "We made the same request to conserve last year and people were very receptive," he said.
He asks that "watering lawns, washing cars and other high water use be restricted, especially during high use periods" from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Officials in several other towns are asking residents to take similar or more severe measures.
"We have had extremely high use, particularly last week," said Mount Airy Councilman Delaine Hobbs. "If there is no rain over the weekend, we may impose a 24-hour ban on outdoor use."
Steve Miller, water superintendent in Manchester, said the town's two springs are showing shortages, but levels in its four wells have not dropped.
"We have had no substantial rain for 27 days and I have noticed increased use as much as 30,000 gallons more a day," he said. "I attribute it to watering lawns."
Rainfall in the northern area of the county has been about 1.8 inches for the month, compared to an average 6.02 inches last August, he said.
Manchester has been "getting the message to conserve" to residents through cable television advertisements, he said.
Westminster is asking residents to conserve, said Paula Martin, water plant supervisor.
"If residents use the minimal amounts of water, we will be able to meet the demand," she said. "We are asking for caution."
Only the western section of Carroll has escaped a shortage. Taneytown has not been affected, said city officials. Union Bridge, which depends on one well to supply about 1,000 residents, is "doing wonderfully with our water," said Kathleen Kreimer, town secretary.
Area farmers are experiencing "bad but not severe" water problems, said Dave Green, Carroll County extension agent.
"We have uncharacteristically dry conditions, but not a drought," he said.
The heat and dry weather have farmers longing wistfully for a hurricane.
"But, the storms have avoided us," Mr. Green said. "You want the effects but not over top of you, of course."
Most local farmers don't irrigate crops, so he has not heard complaints of streams or wells drying.
"Heavy rains in May and June saved us," he said.
Much of the corn crop was planted early. But, crops planted late in the season will suffer the most, he said. The severe weather will affect late hay cutting and alfalfa and barley planting.
"We are setting an all-time record for temperatures, higher than any time in history," he said. "Any rainfall that did land was removed quicker than normal."