Water Restrictions Near In Berlin If Drought Continues

BERLIN – The town of Berlin is considering enacting water conservation measures after this year’s drought has significantly reduced water supplies.

 “We should talk about water conservation,” Town Council member Ellen Lang said during the council comments portion of the meeting on Monday evening. “Somerset County is having problems. We’re approximately 40 percent off of the rainfall we normally have here.”

The Berlin Utilities Commission (BUC) discussed voluntary water conservation last week, town Administrator Linda Bambary said.

Berlin’s wells are down five feet, according to Bambary.

“This is a number we should start having some concern with,” Bambary said.

The BUC has asked staff to begin checking well levels every two weeks to determine if the drop is a trend or an isolated occurrence.

“I have a feeling in a week or two something will come down from the state,” Lang said.

The Berlin Town Council called for town citizens to voluntarily conserve water for the next few weeks, while the town looks into creating mandatory water use restrictions.

Lang said she has doubts that voluntary conservation will make a difference.

“We can try that for awhile,” she said, adding, “My yard’s dead, which is okay because I don’t have to cut the grass.”

The Town Council could enact mandatory water conservation through an emergency declaration, as it did in 2002.

The council could pass the regulations in one meeting, without the legislative process governing ordinances that enact permanent changes or additions to the town code. Those ordinances require a more lengthy process for passage, including a first reading and a public hearing.

The 2002 emergency proclamation banned car washing, except for commercial car washes, and prohibited lawn watering except overnight twice a week. Lawns and gardens could be watered with hand containers.

Bambary said she does not know what specific restrictions might be included if the council pursues an emergency declaration this summer.

The entire state appears to be suffering from the drought, with restrictions already enacted in jurisdictions across Maryland. Many farmers expect to lose entire corn and soybean crops.

The National Weather Service drought monitor lists Worcester County in the moderate drought category.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley planned to ask for an emergency drought declaration from the federal government today. If granted, Maryland’s farmers would be offered access to financial assistance.