South Carroll's water restriction continues; Reservoir levels still low despite recent rainfall


The state may have relaxed drought-related water restrictions, allowing residents to water trees and shrubs and wash cars, but in South Carroll, it's water restrictions as usual.

Carroll County's most populous region has had restrictions on outdoor water use for the third consecutive summer. Residents can tend to lawns and cars only on alternate days, according to street address.

Before the weekend's rain, the water level at Liberty Reservoir -- which supplies nearly 6,800 homes and businesses -- had risen slightly after several storms last month, but not enough to warrant lifting the restrictions.

"We have not had that much rain here in Carroll," Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services, said last week. "The reservoir does not look a whole lot better."

Though the rain over the holiday weekend is welcome, he said, it probably won't be a panacea.

"It would be helpful, but we are still 10 or 12 inches behind," Horst said. "The reservoir is pretty low."

The reservoir, a 43 billion-gallon lake at its capacity, dropped by as much as 6 inches a day during June and July.

Levels had started to stabilize as of last week, said officials from Baltimore, which owns the reservoir and the surrounding watershed. Of the city's three reservoirs, Liberty is the largest and holds water that is easiest to treat.

Carroll can draw 3 million gallons a day from the reservoir and has asked the city for an additional 2 million gallons and land for expanding the 30-year-old treatment plant. Talks are continuing.

The county needs more water to meet increasing demands of South Carroll's population of 28,000, almost 18,000 of whom rely on the public water system. And the area continues to grow.

"The rains [in August] added a little water to the lake," said Sykesville resident Angela Lee, "but there is still a lot of the lake missing."

When demand exceeds the plant's capacity -- as frequently happens in hot, dry spells -- the county must use some of the 3 million gallons it keeps in storage.

A restriction on all outdoor water use in South Carroll was imposed June 1, two months before Gov. Parris N. Glendening issued statewide restrictions. When residents began to conserve, Carroll relaxed its restrictions to alternate days depending on house numbers. That would likely stay in effect through this month, Horst said.

"We are in the punishment zone," said Michael Willinger, a Sykesville resident.

The county commissioners are still calling for countywide water conservation. On Thursday -- the day after the state lifted its restrictions -- the commissioners said they "encourage all residents and businesses to continue conservation efforts."

The county is looking to a series of wells, to be built on the grounds of the state-owned Springfield Hospital Center, to ease water problems. But it has yet to win approval from the state. If the project is delayed much longer, the wells will not be on line by next summer, Horst said.

Jeannie Nichols, a Sykesville resident, said she is not concerned about the ban, but about "unrestrained development" that is stressing the public water supply.

"Officials are saying there is not enough water, but every time I drive around, I see another new development," she said. "This is inconsistent. There has to be some plan for conservation and for the wise use of all our resources."

Sun staff writer Lisa Respers contributed to this article.

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