WILMINGTON, Del. -- After failing to cut back on water use on their own, Gov. Thomas Carper is now forcing state residents to turn off the faucet.
While signing an emergency order making lawn watering and car washing illegal, the governor said he was taking the step because state residents had ignored his earlier pleas to conserve water.
``I do not enjoy taking these steps,'' Carper said. ``But if we take these steps, we won't have to take more dramatic steps later.''
Two-thirds of Delaware's population of 724,000 people are affected by the mandatory water restrictions -- all those who live and work above the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, in the northernmost tip of the state.
That part of the state has shown itself to be the most vulnerable to the effects of the drought. Cities like Wilmington and Newark rely on surface water sources, like the Brandywine River, which have fallen to record lows.
Most of the people and businesses in the lower part of Delaware get water from wells and aquifers, which are faring slightly better than the surface waterways.
Breaking the restrictions is punishable by fines ranging from $50 to $500. Carper also ordered all companies north of the canal to cut their water consumption by 20 percent.
With this order, Delaware joined other Mid-Atlantic states moving to stem demands on critically low water supplies. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey all have established some limits to water use.
Carper said mandatory water restrictions may have been avoidable if his requests to voluntarily cut water use had been heeded. But daily use recently averaged 81 million gallons in northern New Castle County, at or near typical water consumption for August.
``In the last two weeks, while relatively few people have shown restraint, Mother Nature has shown none at all,'' Carper said.
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