Carroll officials begin effort to conserve water

The Baltimore Sun

The Carroll County commissioners and mayors signed a voluntary water conservation resolution yesterday, the latest step in a continuing effort to guard against shortages.

The resolution calls for a "Voluntary Water Conservation Stage" between April 1 and Oct. 1, during which measures would be taken such as reducing outdoor water use; limiting the washing of paved surfaces and vehicles; and installing water-saving devices on faucets, showers and toilets.

"Carroll County again is taking the lead in moving forward, in doing something progressive ... and very lasting for the community," Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said.

The agreement was adopted unanimously by the seven mayors present and the board. Although not at the meeting, Hampstead Mayor Haven Shoemaker also has supported the agreement, said Marge Wolf, Westminster's city administrator.

The measures were among several recommendations for conservation that emerged from a six-month study by a committee of the county's environmental advisory council - and come more than a year after a summit on county water issues.

The resolution comes after a year marked with water challenges, including severe drought conditions in Carroll last summer and Maryland's second-driest May through September on record, Wolf said.

One of the main objectives of the resolution is to ensure everyone is on the same page, Westminster Mayor Thomas K. Ferguson said.

"We're all suffering from the same problem, which is we're not going to have enough water if we don't do something about conserving it," Ferguson said.

Added Wolf, "We want to all be saying the same thing, and that saying has to be, 'We need to conserve water.' Our goal is ... that [conservation measures] become part of everyday life, that everybody gets up and saves water."

Mount Airy Mayor Frank Johnson said the measures provide a way to build in more capacity, as well as a hedge.

"The more we can do this voluntarily, the less it has to be imposed," he said.

Among the other recommendations presented to the commissioners in February: offering a rebate, credit and incentive program to encourage conservation; creating landscaping plans that factor in the potential for recurring drought; and having utilities review their water-rate structure annually to reward less use and penalize excessive use.

"This is certainly a beginning," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich. "We do need to be thinking about the next two steps - reuse, and then water-resource development."

Town and county leaders are expected to next look into creating a county position for a "water conservation/reuse specialist," said Steve Horn, Carroll's director of planning, that could be established in late summer or early fall.

The position would be funded by the county with contributions from municipalities, Ferguson said, and would serve to "try to assure that there is a constant focus on conservation." The specialist would be responsible for educating people about water conservation methods, and developing and running water-efficiency programs, among other duties, he said.

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