All or part of seven Maryland counties are under a drought warning, the Maryland Department of the Environment announced Wednesday.
The warning affects Carroll, Cecil, Frederick and Harford counties, and the areas of Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties that are not served by either Baltimore City’s water supply or the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
The state is urging people, businesses, governments and utilities in those areas to institute voluntary water-use restrictions.
“Water conservation is a good practice year-round, but we are asking water systems to take extra precautions as dry conditions persist,” Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Serena McIlwain said in a statement. “Consumers can help by limiting the use and duration of sprinklers for lawns, taking short showers as opposed to baths, and not leaving the faucet running while brushing your teeth. These things sound simple, but it all adds up.”
The state has not imposed mandatory water-use restrictions. Madia Coleman, a spokesperson for the department, said in an email they did not expect a need to impose mandatory water restrictions, which have not been used in Maryland since 2003.
The drought warning is the result of lower-than-expected stream flow and groundwater levels for this time of year, the department said. While a warning is in effect, the state increases its monitoring of the water supply, encourages voluntary conservation practices and updates the drought status weekly.
Earlier in the summer, the state environmental department issued a drought warning for Western Maryland and portions of Central and Eastern Maryland. Coleman said the department will continue to monitor data and weather forecasts to provide guidance related to the drought.
Washington, Allegany and and Garrett counties remain under a drought watch.
Under a drought warning, the department has a goal of reducing water usage by 10-15%, according to its website.
Frederick County is preparing to call for voluntary water use restrictions, and some municipalities in the county have already asked customers to voluntarily reduce their water use, said Vivian Laxton, a spokesperson for the county.
She said Frederick officials have been monitoring conditions for several months now, and have been working with others on the Metro Washington Council of Governments since there are other jurisdictions downriver of Frederick County that use the Potomac River as a water source.
“In the next few days, we expect to raise more awareness, with additional tips on how to use less water,” she said in an email.
Lowell Melser, a spokesperson for the Baltimore County Department of Public Works and Transportation, said the county was not issuing any voluntary restrictions. Matt Button, a public information officer in Harford County, said county officials there would encourage voluntary water conservation practices while monitoring the situation. And in Carroll County, officials are asking residents to be “mindful” about and try to reduce their water usage.