Area urged to keep conserving water


The cars rolled through the Self Serve Car Wash on York Road like they do any other Sunday morning. People scrubbed and squirted with abandon at the Cockeysville establishment.

Newton Williams, firing a cleansing spurt against the side of his sedan, had read about the potential water shortage because of mechanical failures at Baltimore's Guilford and Cromwell pumping stations.

But he didn't experience any ill effects at his Lutherville home. "We watered yesterday and didn't notice anything," Williams said. "The pressure was fine."

And as for washing his car: "I feel fine doing this, because this place recycles its water," he said.

Reserves are low in the Baltimore County area served by the Towson Reservoir because of a series of problems -- including a softball-sized hole in one of the pipes at the Cromwell station and circuitry breaks -- discovered Saturday afternoon.

During repair work late yesterday afternoon, another break was found in the same 20-inch line, complicating the work and extending it at least through today, officials said.

"Keep conserving; that's important," said city Public Works spokesman Kurt Kocher.

Water officials are asking residents not to water their gardens, wash their cars or take long showers until the voluntary conservation measures are lifted.

The Towson Reservoir, owned and operated by the city, supplies areas that include Towson, Timonium, Cockeysville, Dulaney Valley, Hunt Valley, Sparks, Lutherville and Ruxton.

Those communities typically use about 52 million gallons of water a day, said Kocher. Yesterday, the water was replenishing at the rate of 40 million gallons a day.

But the news didn't seem to impact the rush of Mother's Day commerce.

The reservoir supplies the hectic business corridors along York and Harford roads, but restaurants, groceries and garden shops reported no water-related interruptions.

"We really haven't been keeping up with the story," said Carrie Engle, manager of the greenhouse at Valley View Farms Garden Center and Nursery on York Road in Cockeysville. "We've been more careful about conserving water for the past several years anyway. We're not doing anything special this time."

A line of cars choked the parking lot at Valley View, as people scrambled to purchase flowers and plants for their mothers.

In the water garden center, stone and brass fountains shaped like lions and cherubs gurgled steady streams of water.

"We haven't heard any word about the shortage," said manager Tim McQuaid. "We've got a good flow ratio like we always do. The water's a good color."

Hostesses at Outback Steakhouse on Shawan Road said they had taken several calls from people wondering about the water but reported no problems. Like many restaurants yesterday, Outback was teeming with patrons by noon.

Bill Donovan, general manager of Romano's Macaroni Grill on Padonia Road, appeared surprised that anyone would even ask about the water.

"The water? No we haven't had any problems or heard anything," he said.

An early afternoon drive through Ruxton, with its vast, manicured lawns and vibrant pink flower beds, found several people mowing but none watering.

At the Graul's supermarket on Ruxton Road, where women in their Sunday dresses carried large cuts of meat to crowded checkout lines, Assistant Manager Karl Kochanek said news of the water problems had caused nary a murmur.

"We haven't had any problems," he said. "Not yet, anyway."

City crews would be working all night and all day today to make repairs, Kocher said, adding that higher water levels in the reservoir yesterday morning showed that people had heeded requests to conserve.

He said the break discovered yesterday and the tangle of water lines were slowing repairs.

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