Drought Warning Issued For Eastern Maryland

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Drying up. That’s what’s happening to a number of Maryland streams, as a new drought warning is issued for parts of the state.

Alex DeMetrick has details on where the drought is hitting the hardest.

Conditions have been bad on the Eastern Shore for most of the summer and now it’s going from bad to worse.

In droughts, streams are like the canary in the coal mine and hydrologists for the U.S. Geological Survey monitor them for signs of trouble ahead. The survey finds most streams running lower and some extremely low.

“We’ve got four streams that set monthly lows on the Delmarva and southern Maryland and one of them set the lowest level since 1949,” said USGS Hydrologist Wendy McPherson.

That has upped a drought watch to a drought warning for Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester counties.

“It’s not only dry, it’s been excessively hot,” McPherson said.

“It was just like being in a drought furnace and you can tell by a lot of leaves, that’s actually scorching from the heat and wind,” said Talbot County farmer Chip Councell.

“Mother Nature hasn’t been very helpful with any weather this year. We’ve had to pretty much grow this irrigated corn with irrigated water,” said Caroline County farmer Scott Youse.

That means water pulled from the ground by wells or from streams. But when rain doesn’t fall, it really comes down to one critical source.

“A lot of that’s coming from groundwater. It’s not just coming from upstream. It comes through the banks because water will seek its own level,” McPherson said.

For much of the rest of the state, a less serious drought watch remains in effect, primarily because reservoirs are full.

“Except for the people who have wells. They might want to be careful and be very conservative,” McPherson said.

Because as stream flow lowers, so does the groundwater supporting those wells.

A drought warning means people on the Eastern Shore are being urged to voluntarily conserve water. If it worsens to a drought emergency, mandatory rationing takes effect.

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