Carroll County has located several productive test wells at its southern end, each yielding a minimum of 100,000 gallons daily, a discovery that could ensure South Carroll has plenty of water in a drought.
"While it is still not clear to us how abundant the water source is in South Carroll, we have found some of the biggest wells outside the limestone areas in the western end of the county there," said Tom Devilbiss, Carroll's hydrogeologist.
Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge wants to pursue the wells as an additional source for populous South Carroll, an area troubled with water shortages three of the past four summers.
Although Carroll is moving forward with plans to build a $14 million treatment plant at Piney Run Reservoir as a water source for South Carroll -- Liberty Reservoir and a well at Fairhaven retirement community near Sykesville are the only sources -- Gouge sees the wells as a viable supplement.
"We have an easy way to make sure we won't run out of water in South Carroll, without going into debt," Gouge said. She said the budget contains more than enough money to cover the wells, which are at Springfield Hospital Center, Freedom Park and on the private Moxley property.
"Let's get them on line and put this water into the system," she said.
Wells can be built inexpensively and fairly quickly, she said, and the water requires less treatment than that from a reservoir.
"At best, it will be three to four years before Piney Run comes on line," said Gouge, who opposes construction of the plant. "We need extra water now. We should pursue using the wells as quickly as possible. There is no harm in applying to the state for water appropriations."
For at least two years, Carroll has test-drilled wells in Sykesville hoping to add to the supply for South Carroll, where water restrictions have been imposed three of the past four summers. If the spring dry spell continues, most officials have said, they expect similar bans this year.
"Even with the new [Fairhaven] well, we could have bans, if there is a drought," said Doug Myers, county director of public works. "People should be exercising conservation."
The Fairhaven well is the only public groundwater source in South Carroll.
It can pump as much as 340,000 gallons a day, adding about 10 percent to the 3 million gallons the county can draw daily from Liberty Reservoir.
"At this point, it would not take much to get these wells hooked into the Fairhaven well," Myers said.
In addition to the one at the hospital near Sykesville, one is on the Moxley property near Route 32 and Raincliffe Road and two are in Freedom Park along the Patapsco River.
"All told, we could have roughly 1.3 million gallons a day from these wells," Devilbiss said. "There definitely is water here."