New York City residents
were urged to conserve water as drought watches for the
city's water supply escalated into a drought warning
The warning was issued for New York City's water supply
system by the New York Department of Environmental
The mid-Atlantic has seen an unusually warm, dry winter
this year. New York City had been under a drought watch
since Dec. 23.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents to
conserve water or face possible shortages. The drought
warning for New York City's water supplies means that
there is less than a one-third chance the city's
reservoirs will be full by June 1.
Currently reservoirs in upstate New York are about 41
percent capacity. Normal capacity is about 80 percent.
While city dwellers are concerned about water supplies
their rural counterparts are worried about how the dry
weather will affect crops and cattle.
Richard Coombe, a cattle farmer in the Catskills, said
that he hasn't seen ponds so low since the 1960s. Coombe
and his brother, who own family-scale farms, have had to
relocate cattle because some watering ponds are too low.
"We're all talking about a dreadful lack of snow pack
and water," he said.
Coombe is also chairman and CEO of the Watershed
Agricultural Council, a nonprofit that administers a
voluntary, incentive-based watershed protection program.
Coombe said he was concerned about the potential effect
of drought on the area's farms. "If we were to have a
serious enough drought, it could be the straw that
breaks the camel's back for many farmers," he said.
If farms go out of business, their land may get
subdivided and developed, further threatening the
watershed, he said. "We've also got gambling and casinos
moving into the area -- we fought that and lost -- and
that means even more of a threat to land that's being
occupied by well-managed farms."
Maryland's environmental authorities have issued a
drought warning for central Maryland and Maryland's
The declaration asks residents and businesses to
voluntarily curb nonessential water use, and requires
public water systems to take steps to reduce consumption.
Baltimore will begin drawing water from the Susquehanna
River next week to conserve dwindling supplies in its
reservoirs. Three reservoirs serve the city's 1.8
Winter wheat crops in Maryland, which are harvested in
late March or early April, had enough moisture to
germinate, said Don Vandrey, spokesperson for the
Maryland Department of Agriculture. "Also, many farmers
plant cover crops in the winter to prevent erosion, and
those need just enough moisture to hold the soil, so
But vegetable growers and other farmers are closely
monitoring what could become a crippling drought.
Some farmers are planning new ways to irrigate their
soil -- but irrigated water has to come from somewhere,
pointed out Vandrey. "A lot is pumped out of nearby
rivers and streams, which at this point are very low."
Maryland's policymakers were drawing up legislation to
require public water systems to develop and implement
water conservation plans. The state has built up to a
nine-inch deficit of rainfall over the past nine months.
Even grape crops -- which can flourish during well-timed
dry spells -- are not bearing up under the recent warm
spell. This week Maryland has seen temperatures near 70
Michelle "Mike" Fiore, an Italian vineyard owner in
Harford County, MD, said the warm, dry winter "is
really hurting the grapes.
"My calendar says it's the end of January but my grapes
think it's the end of April."
In 1999, the mid-Atlantic bore a severe drought, and
mandatory water restrictions were imposed in several
states. By issuing warnings, many officials said they
are hoping to avoid a repeat scenario.
Water Conservation Do's and Don'ts
Adapted from the New York City Department of
The average residents water use per day per person is
between 60 and 148 gallons. Below are some do's and
don'ts for water conservation.
The Do's ---
DO repair leaky plumbing (a slow drip wastes 15 to 20
gallons each day).
DO turn faucets off tightly.
DO installing water-efficient faucets and showerheads.
DO shorten showers (saves five to seven gallons of water
DO fill the bathtub halfway (saves 10-15 gallons).
DO shut off the water while shaving or brushing teeth.
Faucets use 2 to 3 gallons a minute. And up to 75
percent of all residential water use occurs in the
DO run dishwashers and clothes washers only when they're
full. Use short cycles.
DO install water-saving toilets, showerheads, and faucet
DO place a plastic bottle filled with water in the
toilet tank (for residents who can't switch to a low
DO use a self-closing nozzle on your hose.
The Don'ts ---
DON'T use the toilet as a wastebasket, and don't flush
DON'T let the water run while washing dishes. Kitchen
faucets use 2 to 3 gallons a minute. Filling a basin
only takes 10 gallons to wash and rinse.
DON'T run water to make it cold. Have it chilled in the
refrigerator, ready to drink
DON'T open fire hydrants.
DON'T water your sidewalk or driveway -- sweep them
DON'T over water your lawn or plants. Water before 9
a.m. or after 7 p.m.
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