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MD drought deepens


"The spring watered the farm here and flowed onto other farms, but this year it's done dried up."

—Paul Stull

In Frederick County, Md., water is a precious commodity.

What some call the worst drought since the 1930s is burdening farmers, businesspeople and homeowners.

Seventy-eight-year-old farmer Paul Stull's spring is lower than it has ever been. He spent the first 22 years of his life working his father's farm and the past 56 working his own.

"We had a bad drought in 1930," he said. "The spring watered the farm here and flowed onto other farms, but this year it's done dried up."

Chickens, cows, potatoes and wheat at Stull's Walkersville farm depend on the spring to grow, but without rain there's no way to replenish the water supply.

"I've farmed all my life," Stull said. "I raised six children and we always had enough water to bathe in. Now, I go down to my spring and I can see how low it is."

The Rev. Marilyn Washburn of the Faith United Church of Christ has seen firsthand how the drought has limited crop production for some members of her congregation.

"Because of algae water becoming undrinkable, farms are struggling to provide water for their animals," she said. "And the crops are just not growing and producing. Some of the corn is already dried up and some of the soy beans may survive, but it's hard to tell whether those will be a good harvest or not."

To deal with the water shortage, Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening mandated restrictions on water consumption through most of the state Tuesday.

"The drought that took hold in Maryland almost one year ago has significantly worsened and we are acting more aggressively to combat these historic drought conditions," said Glendening. "Rainfall, stream flow and ground water levels are at record lows across the central region and the Eastern Shore. The recent rainfall is not nearly enough to relieve the stress on our water supply. While the central and eastern regions are the hardest hit, nearly every region of the state is under either a drought watch or drought emergency."

To alleviate some of the strain from the lack of water, Frederick County churches are praying for precipitation.

"As a faith community, we try to be aware and alert for these concerns," said Washburn. "We have held it up in prayer in our regular worship service."

Restrictions on water in Frederick County include watering lawns, washing cars, filling pools and more.

"A lot of people here are on well water and a lot of times droughts can be deceiving," Washburn said. "We remind them well water comes from the same place as everyone else's water comes from."

While a large number of Frederick County's farmers have been affected, other business owners have suffered under the drought as well.

Water is an integral part of business for Scott Hall of Classic Landscaping in Woodsboro.

"The most striking problem," he said. "Is the grass that's literally been in place for 50 years. It has very deep root systems and is very resilient. This spring, after the driest winter on record, that resiliency in grass and plants didn't exist anymore."

Hall said recent growth in the Frederick City area has also impacted the water supply.

"It's literally exhausted our ability to continue to provide water to more construction projects," he said. "Once the drought struck it just hit a wall."

The Rev. Richard Diffenderfer of the Church of the Nazarene voiced similar thoughts.

"We have a number of people who are impacted in their work by the drought in some way," he said. "I think there are things the city could be doing to help out ... I think currently, if it gets worse, it'll ferment a lot of cynicism and question marks in a lot of people's minds."

Robert Wormald works with a construction company in Frederick City.

"There are some weather concerns we have," he said. "The government didn't develop their municipal water supply. The supply is from a river that relies on rain, but the drought depleted the water from the river."

In spite of the struggles associated with local government, the attitude among many in the faith-based community appears positive.

"I've seen a general attitude of conservation and concern for people calling a praying for rain," Hall said. "I've heard children who saw rain this morning and said 'it's a miracle, we prayed for rain and here it is.'"

Since many in Washburn's church are farming families or have descended from farming families, she said most people are good stewards of the water.

"We're particularly aware of those needs," she said.

Hall said sometimes people take the simple things for granted.

"As a Christian community in general, we've lost our appreciation for the simple things that God provides for us," he said. "I think we take even our food-delivery system for granted. We bless our meals and we still don't understand how intricate and complicated they are and that God's hand is still in the delivery of those food supplies."

While drought is a serious issue, to Hall, it's a passing concern.

"My view is very literally that this is a temporary situation and from an eternal perspective, droughts and blizzards and tornados are catastrophes themselves, but from an eternal perspective they don't matter."

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More links on Drought


Related Links:

Maryland 2002 Drought Information

Frederick County Government Web site

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