Drought Watch Issued Across Northern Maryland: State Urges Citizens And Businesses To Implement Water Conservation Practices


Patchy grass is one of the first visible signs of drought. (Credit: Shutterstock)

HARFORD COUNTY - The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has issued a drought watch for large portions of the state, encouraging individuals and businesses to decrease water consumption.

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Lower than usual stream flows have prompted a drought watch to be issued for Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Washington Counties, excluding areas served by the Baltimore City or Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission public water systems.

Credit: Maryland Department of the Environment

Although the MDE is stepping up its supervision of water conditions and advocating voluntary water conservation, there are currently no compulsory water use restrictions. While the state currently has a sufficient water supply to fulfill the demands of its residents and businesses, preventative measures are being recommended to prevent potential future water shortages.

According to MDE, the recent rain in the area is unlikely to significantly alleviate the precipitation deficit. The agency recommends that homeowners implement water conservation strategies, as laid out in its fact sheet.

In the Kitchen

  • Run the dishwasher only when full.
  • Consider water use when purchasing a new dishwasher: New water and energy-efficient models use 20% less water.
  • Defrost food in the refrigerator instead of using running water: A running faucet uses about a gallon of water per minute
  • Use a dishpan or plug the sink when hand-washing dishes.
  • Don't pre-rinse dishes before loading into dishwasher.
  • Keep a water container in the refrigerator rather than waiting for cold water from the faucet.

In the Bathroom

  • Install low-flow toilets or toilet dams
  • Test all toilets regularly for leaks: A leaking toilet could waste up to 100 gal/day
  • Do not use the toilet as a wastebasket
  • Replace old showerheads: Low-flow showerheads can save three gal/min
  • Take shorter showers
  • Turn off the water when shaving or brushing your teeth

In the Laundry

  • Run full loads of laundry instead of many small loads.
  • Consider energy and water efficiency when purchasing new laundry machines: Newer models use 40% less water and can save up to 6000 gal/year.

Landscape Irrigation

  • Install efficient irrigation systems such as drip irrigation, soil soakers, and efficient sprinkler systems.
  • Set sprinklers for lawn and garden only, don't water the street or sidewalk.
  • Water the lawn only when the ground is dry and preferably no more than once a week: The amount of water used by a sprinkler in one hour is equal to the daily water needs of a family of four.
  • Water during the coolest part of the day (preferably morning) and never water on windy days: As much as 30% of water used can be lost to evaporation by watering lawn during midday.
  • Pull weeds to decrease competition for water.
  • Increase mowing height to 2-3 inches and apply mulch to both reduce evaporation and prevent weed growth.
  • Limit grass areas and use trees, shrubs, and other plants that require less water to landscape your yard: Grass turf requires 30-50% more water than shrubs and other ground cover.

Other Outdoor Use

  • Repair or replace leaking hoses and sprinklers
  • Always use an automatic shut-off nozzle on hoses.
  • Use a broom rather than a hose to clean decks, sidewalks, and other paved areas: 5 minutes of running the hose uses 25 gallons of water.
  • Collect rainwater for reuse in the garden whenever possible.
  • Cover pools to prevent evaporation: An average uncovered pool loses about an inch of water a week because of evaporation

Specific conservation guidelines for different business sectors, including restaurants and commercial buildings, can be found on MDE's website.

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