With the possibility of the second dry summer in three years, Gov. Parris N. Glendening called on Marylanders yesterday to voluntarily reduce water use in the hope that conservation - and rain - will help avoid the painful statewide restrictions of 1999.
The governor also said at a news conference that he was signing an executive order asking state agencies to set a goal of cutting their water consumption 7 percent by 2003 and 10 percent by 2010. He said he hopes the agencies will provide an example for citizens.
"With lower than normal rainfall this year, we are closely monitoring for possible drought conditions and strongly encouraging Marylanders to take simple steps to reduce water consumption," Glendening said.
Hot, dry weather early this month left stream flows and soil moisture below normal.
"We are not in a crisis situation," the governor said. "Obviously, we get rain. We get dry periods. But the point is, our water resources are finite."
He is hoping to avoid a repeat of 1999, when he imposed watering restrictions for a month after one of the state's worst droughts.
Some communities complained that the statewide curbs were unnecessary, given variations in local supplies and conditions.
The state has since developed new guidelines for gauging when to restrict watering lawns, filling pools or washing cars. The criteria are based on precipitation, stream flows, groundwater and reservoirs.
Asked whether the guidelines would eliminate squabbles with local jurisdictions, Glendening replied, "Not completely" but quickly added, "There is more of a general understanding of the nature of the problem. I hope we can join together cooperatively."
Initial resistance to curbs on water use always arises, whether required locally or by the state, said Carroll County Commissioner Donald I. Dell. He recalled that in 1999, "people would start watering lawns and filling swimming pools, and then the dust would come and they'd have to do it all over again."
When the county issued restrictions days before the state did, "people got pretty upset about it," Dell said. He said residents eventually came around and that he thinks they will heed Glendening's conservation call. "They fuss and whine, but they realize that if it's not raining, they're not going to have a water supply" without conserving, he said.
The governor's executive order requires state agencies to submit conservation plans by Oct. 1. The agencies will be required to buy water-efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances when replacements are needed. The order applies to buildings owned, managed or leased by the state.
Glendening held the news conference at the Annapolis headquarters of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which has barrels to collect rainwater and flushless, composting toilets.
The governor encouraged Marylanders to repair leaky faucets and replace conventional faucets and showerheads with water-efficient ones.