The pungent smell of chlorine bleach permeates the Hutchison home, a handsome four-bedroom split-level just outside Westminster.
The Hutchisons, a family of four, struggle daily to conserve water. They fear their well will run dry.
So they cook with bottled water. They wash their clothes at the public laundry.
And they clean their kitchen with bleach rather than soap and water.
"Water is a necessity of life. You can't flush the commode, cook a meal or bathe without it," said Alice Hutchison, 59. "Most people never give it a second thought. They turn on the tap and it's there. For us, water is a constant concern. We pray for rain."
In the fall, the Hutchisons' dependence on that unreliable well, which runs low much of the year and goes dry during droughts, will end. Carroll County plans to extend water lines to their home on Woodland Drive and 24 others in water-starved Maple Crest, a 30-year-old subdivision south of the city.
Persuading Carroll officials to proceed with the $379,000 project was not easy. Homeowners in Maple Crest, which includes Kolbe Road, Woodland Drive, Wayne Avenue, Maple Crest Drive and Hook Road, were sharply divided over the proposed extension of the water lines. Thirty homeowners supported it, 18 opposed it, and eight were undecided.
After nearly two years of public meetings, the three-member Board of County Commissioners decided to extend water lines only to Wayne Avenue and Woodland Drive, where 21 of 25 homeowners fought hard for desperately needed public water service.
Last week, the commissioners accepted Maryland's offer of assistance for Maple Crest, a $238,986 grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development and a $138,916 loan from the Department of the Environment.
Neighbors said it would be a relief to put their water woes to rest. More than a few wells on Wayne Avenue and Woodland Drive - the streets with the most severe problems - have dried up, forcing residents to pay the high cost of trucking in water.
"We are very happy about it," said Lewey King, who has lived on Wayne Avenue since 1972. "Our well went dry years ago, so we draw water from our neighbor's well. Luckily, we haven't had any problems, but we are constantly worried."
At King's home, nature waters the lawn and no one bothers to plant shrubs. Hardy oak and pine trees dominate the landscape.
"We only buy perennials, which don't require as much work as annuals, and we use dishwater to give them a drink when they need it," said King's wife, Mary. "The soap kills the bugs, and the flowers don't seem to mind."
Even those who have had little or no trouble with their wells said they look forward to hooking up to the water supply from the city of Westminster. It is expected to cost each homeowner about $5,800 in construction costs and $3,700 in connection and sewer fees. Each homeowner has 20 years to repay the county.
"I don't mind paying for it," said Charles D. Long, who has lived on Woodland Drive for 32 years and has had no trouble with his well.
"I think it will improve the value of my property and, of course, it will put my mind at ease. It's like an insurance policy, just in case my well goes dry."
Maple Crest is one of three dozen Carroll communities identified by the county Health Department as having water or sewer problems, or both.
Most are rural communities. The neighborhoods include Detour, Union Mills and Mayberry.