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Water table dropping seriously

Richard D. L. Fulton

(8/23) In spite of occasional waves of thunderstorms and rain showers passing though the region, drought conditions continue to persist. However, right now Emmitsburg officials don’t feel increased water restrictions are nececssary.

Town Manager David Haller told the town Board of Commissioners at their August 20 meeting that Rainbow Lake, an 11.5-acre, 33 million-gallon lake located about three miles outside of Emmitsburg that serves as a town reservoir, dropped two inches below the spillway level during July.

However, he said in July that "our well levels are now ten feet on average below May 2011 levels."

Haller told the town commissioners this means that the "water table is dropping seriously."

In June, the wells were averaging 4.5 feet below their May 2011 levels, indicating the levels have dropped an additional 5.5 feet across the board since.

The town manager noted that the Emmitsburg area received approximately 4.6" inches of precipitation during July, slightly above the average 3.6 inches, but that the gain did little to avert an overall 7.4 inches sustained over the past six months.

The average precipitation for the area from February 1 through July 31 is around 23.2 inches. This year, the total precipitation for the same period amounted to 15.8 inches.

The town did initiated water conservation regulations in 2011 when the commissioners adopted a prohibition forbidding watering lawns and gardens between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

Because of evaporation and other reasons, the period of daytime between those hours represented "the most ineffective, inefficient use of water."

However, stricter measures might not be called for, even under the current conditions.

Subsequent to the town meeting, Haller commented on the need for increasing water use restrictions, saying, "Right now, my best guess is ‘No.’"

"Right now, at the rate it’s going, I think we’ll just stick with what we’ve got," he said. "If something crazy happens, we might have to [impose greater use restrictions], but we’ll probably ride it out."

"We’re getting to where it normally starts to get a little better," Haller stated. "Snow would be very helpful this winter. That’s what really helps regenerate the water supply."

Haller previously noted that town residents generally seem to be refraining from the temptation to water their lawns as the drought conditions continue to prevail.

"When I drive around town I don’t see a lot of blazingly green lawns," he said.

As to when an end to the deficient rainfall might come about, Haller said as things worsened through June, "Regarding the on-going draught, hope for rain."

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