There must be many drought weary residents across the township who were relieved when officials from Lancaster and York counties, the Town of Fort Mill and City of Tega Cay relaxed restrictions on home water use. Residents can water their lawns once a week with irrigation systems, but other restrictions, such as washing cars and driveways, remain. There's no restriction on hand-watering lawns and landscaping.
Ironically, the frequent rain this spring - as of last week precipitation from April showers was above the historic average - has lessened the need for watering. Lush, green lawns and shrubs are evident just about everywhere you look. But the days are getting hotter and easing restrictions will help homeowners maintain their landscapes.
There's also no guarantee a healthy cycle of rain will continue. The drought that began last summer still exists and although Lake Wylie is now above its normal level, it can be depleted much faster than it was replenished. That's why it's important for officials to monitor usage and fine those who water when they're not supposed to.
The Tega Cay City Council debated the enforcement issue last week and although members could not come to an agreement on a method, it's good to see them discuss the issue publicly. We hope the other municipalities are also looking to enforce the restrictions still in place.
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Only time will tell if last summer's hot, dry spell will repeat itself and officials should have waited longer before easing restrictions. What's disturbing is officials' eagerness to allow access to the surplus water so soon after it accumulated and they should be prepared to revert back to the previous bans if May is dryer than normal. That's why it was good hear Monday that the Fort Mill Town Council decided to reevaluate its restrictions at the end of next month. All the other municipalities should do the same.
No one should forget, too, the brewing legal battle over states' rights to the Catawba River basin. South Carolina is trying to prevent a plan by North Carolina cities to draw on the Palmetto State's resources to support their growing communities. Considering our own local growth, the basin can't support both if North Carolina ultimately wins.
There should also be some consideration to exploring technology to help conserve water and provide water. Nuclear desalination, which involves distillation and reverse osmosis of salt water by the heat generated by nuclear plants, could be an answer someday. It would require a tremendous public commitment - the construction of a pipeline from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Norman would be needed - but that could mean good jobs for unemployed mill workers.
Also, officials should explore more immediate remedies such as capturing and recycling rainwater (April 16, Fort Mill Times). Municipalities can set a good example by maintaining their landscaping that nature-friendly way and if subsidies, perhaps with the help of Duke Energy, were available, more residents would be inclined to install those systems.
It's not difficult to fathom why local elected officials are eager to please constituents by allowing them to water their lawns once a week, but they did act in haste.
Hopefully, the drought will subside as the season unfolds. But, officials should plan for the worst as we all hope for the best.