Drought Impacts on Maryland 
and Chesapeake Bay

Current Drought Status How Drought Affects
the Chesapeake Bay
Impacts on Plants 
and Animals

Drought in Maryland
Flows for 2002 from Maryland's four major tributaries to the Bay are 22 percent less than the average for 1985-2000. The flow deficit was greatly helped by the record November flow on the Choptank River, which was 437 percent above average for that month.  Rainfall from September 2001 through 2002 at BWI is 11.31 inches below normal despite getting 6.01 inches of rain, nearly double the long-term October average, and above average rainfall again in November and December.

a photo of a pond in Mt. Airy, MD showing the effects of the drought.
The effects of the drought in 2002 can be seen in the large
amount of exposed bank seen in this Mt. Airy, Maryland pond.

In addition to the effects on humans, the drought significantly affected the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and the plants and animals that live in and rely on the bay.  Salinity increased significantly in some parts of the bay, potentially harming living resources. For example, increases in salinity can kill some bay grass species, allow oyster diseases to proliferate farther up the bay, reduce the spawning area available to fish such as striped bass, and permit salt-tolerant toxic or nuisance algae to bloom in new areas.

Each Marylander uses about 50 gallons of water a day. Individual citizens can take many very easy voluntary water conservation measures to reduce their water use. For example:

  • fix leaky faucets and running toilets
  • wash only full loads of dishes or clothes
  • sweep driveways rather than hosing them
  • apply mulch to gardens and water them only during the coolest part of the day

The Maryland Department of the Environment's website is reporting:

"On December 18, 2002, Governor Parris N. Glendening announced that he is lifting the drought emergency declaration for the Eastern Shore and is relaxing water use restrictions that have been in place in Central Maryland since April.  The central region of the State, which includes parts of Baltimore, Howard, and Anne Arundel counties served by the City of Baltimore's water system will now move from Level Two to Level One water use restrictions.  The overall status for the southern and western regions of the State is "normal".  Read the press release on the Governor's executive order."

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