County puts pressure on heavy users of water; 150 homes targeted for reminder, offer of free leak inspection


South Carroll residents who use more water than their neighbors can expect an official county letter calling for conservation.

After monitoring water use in in Carroll's most populous area for two years, the county Bureau of Utilities has found 150 households that consistently exceed the daily average of 300 gallons. A few are using nearly three times that average, county records show, and many are 200 to 300 gallons a day above the average.

The letter is a gentle reprimand and an offer to help.

"We are talking about people who are consistently over the daily limit," said Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services. "The letter is not to say they are abusing the connection, but maybe there is a problem, and we are offering help."

Any number of factors can determine usage, he said.

"If there are eight kids and an outdoor pool, then that is the end of the story," said Horst. "It is not our intent to say you can't use water. People can always say that 'it is my water and I will use it how I want to.' "

But if a leak is tripling water use, the county offers a free flow test that could pinpoint the problem. A resident can call and schedule an appointment for the quick and simple procedure.

The problem could be a persistent leak in the line between the water meter and the house, or it could be a faulty faucet, Horst said.

"Not only is it expensive for users, but we have a finite amount of water we can produce," said Horst. "Folks could really benefit from someone coming into their homes to do this test. We are not going to fix the problem, but we can say what it might be."

Conservation is critical to the Freedom water system, which draws up to 3 million gallons a day from Liberty Reservoir into its treatment plant on Oakland Mills Road. The plant delivers water to about 6,500 homes in South Carroll, which has more than 28,000 residents.

Carroll is negotiating with Baltimore, which owns the reservoir, for an increase in the water allocation, and the county plans to expand the treatment plant's capacity.

Until those changes are made, Freedom will face seasonal water shortages. During the 1997 summer drought, the county imposed a ban on outdoor water use and threatened violators with fines and shut-offs.

"We are coming into the time of the year when it is sometimes difficult to keep up with demand," said Horst. "We have sent notes with billings, and there have been other mailings about conservation, but not to this target group."

County commissioners approved the letter yesterday but asked that conservation information be included in the mailing. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said she would like residents to have some simple method to gauge usage.

Freedom residents pay quarterly water bills that average about $60. The fee includes $20 for a meter and $1.30 per 1,000 gallons consumed.

"Our goal is to keep your bill as low as possible and make sure that our most precious resource is not being wasted," the letter says.

Information: 410-386-2164 or 888-302-8978.

Pub Date: 3/31/99

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