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NYC posts drought warning

BY SUSAN KIM | NEW YORK CITY | January 28, 2002

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

Eastern Shore.

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

million residents.

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

they're okay."

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

Environmental Protection

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

a minute).

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

flow toilet).

DO use a self-closing nozzle on your hose.

The Don'ts ---

DON'T use the toilet as a wastebasket, and don't flush

it unnecessarily.

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.

Related Topics:

Brazil suffers worst drought in 80 years

'Megadrought' predicted for Southwest

Drought causes land to rise in West

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