State officials have turned off the spigot on four wells supplying drinking water to northern Anne Arundel County because the underground water supply is being drained.
The county will make up the shortage by pulling more water from its network of 70 wells and increasing its purchases from Baltimore, the Department of Public Works said. The 1.8 million gallons a day from the four wells could supply 3,600 households.
While that solution works for the short term, eventually the county will have to spend millions of dollars to pipe water from Crofton-area wells to the Glen Burnie area, where more development is planned.
Additions will not be made to the county's water supply network for 10 to 15 years. There are no cost estimates, said Betty Dixon, a department spokeswoman.
The main consequence of the county's water use is that not enough ground water is left for Sawmill Creek and its tributaries, said Larry Lubbers, who leads the Sawmill Creek restoration program. It could take 10 years to find out if the change and the measures to let storm water run-off seep into the ground will help save the ailing creek.
Sawmill is one of four state watersheds targeted for restoration.
The creek's flow is about one-sixth of what it was before development brought thousands of people to the Glen Burnie area after World War II. At times, parts of the creek are dry, meaning it cannot support fish and insects.
"They are pumping the water supply dry locally," Mr. Lubbers said.
The county's permits for the four wells expired June 1, and the state refused to renew them. The wells tap into the upper layer of underground water, known as the Patapsco aquifer.
Five wells pumping twice as much water from the Patuxent aquifer, a deeper underground well field, still are being used, according to an internal county memo dated July 26.
That the Patapsco aquifer is affected has members of an east Glen Burnie community coalition asking its consultant to review the information. Part of the aquifer has been contaminated by a closed hazardous waste landfill owned by Browning-Ferris Industries Inc.
"I would say it is something to look into," said Mary Rosso, who heads the informal coalition.