LAKE WYLIE -- Rainy days and Monday just brought down something unseen in Lake Wylie for two years -- the end of water-use restrictions.
David Hughes, supervisor for York County Water and Sewer Department, said Monday the county and Fort Mill are joining Charlotte, Rock Hill and a growing list of municipalities, including Clover, switching from mandatory to voluntary water-use restrictions.
"That's acknowledging the fact that we're not back up to where we want to be," he said.
Rock Hill announced Thursday it would make restrictions voluntary, meaning York County and Tega Cay, which purchase water from Rock Hill, would quickly follow suit. While Tega Cay had not announced changes by Monday press time, Tega Cay Councilman John Dervay made it clear before Rock Hill's announcement that his city would follow Rock Hill's lead on restrictions.
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"We take our direction on that from them," Dervay said about water-use restrictions.
In North Carolina, Mecklenburg and Gaston counties recently announced pullbacks to voluntary water-use restrictions from mandatory ones that included everything from twice a week watering to banned outdoor water uses since 2007.
York County's announcement came a day after the South Carolina Drought Response Committee determined 27 of 46 counties statewide are no longer in drought conditions. York County was one of nine counties downgraded to incipient drought, while the remaining 10 counties were downgraded to moderate.
"Lake levels around South Carolina are normal," said DNR hydrologist Masaaki Kiuchi, adding all 17 stream flow gauges statewide show no drought.
Yet not everyone is optimistic with summer approaching. Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman says it could be too early to say the drought is over with the warm weather and possibility of low rainfall ahead that could bring back restrictions.
Hughes said the Catawba-Wateree Drought Management Advisory Group -- made up of area water providers and often responsible for recommendations leading to water-use regulations -- will continue meeting monthly.
"I don't want to get too comfortable here because we're heading into summer, and we know how dry that can be," he said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities, which downgraded from mandatory to voluntary April 7, vowed to continue a year-round "conservation message and outreach," saying that "every drop counts." Belmont, also making the change April 7, stated "customers are still urged to voluntarily conserve their water use."
Rock Hill's announcement noted voluntary cutbacks still call for the city to reduce water use by 3 to 5 percent of normal use. The city, as well as York County, asks residents to limit water use to 350 gallons per household per day, reduce washing of outdoor surfaces and reduce the washing of buildings other than for "immediate fire protection."
How to reduce water use, from local water providers:
• Limit lawn and landscape irrigation to no more than two days per week.
• Reduce residential vehicle washing by using commercial car washes, preferably ones that recycle water.
• Wash full loads of clothes and dishes.
• Take shorter baths or showers
• Fix leaky faucets, pipes or toilets, not only during drought conditions, but year-round.
• For landscape design and maintenance, use low-volume, handheld watering applications. Reduce the use of sprinklers, irrigation systems or other remote landscape watering devices to no more than two days per week
• Reduce the washing down of sidewalks, walkways, driveways, parking lots, tennis courts and other hard surfaced areas
• Reduce the flushing of gutters
• Reduce the use of water to maintain fountains, reflection ponds and decorative water bodies for aesthetic or scenic purposes, except when necessary to support aquatic life.