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WATER

Here are simple ways to cut down on wasted water:

• Check your water-using appliances and devices for leaks. Studies have shown homes can waste more than 10 percent of their water use because of leaks. If you have an older irrigation system, more than 50 percent of the water can be lost to leaks.

• A full bathtub can require up to 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses only 10 to 25 gallons.

• Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save 4 gallons a minute.

• Toilets use the most water inside a home. Replace your toilet with an efficient 1.6-gallon flushing model.

• Switch your washer to an Energy Star-rated machine. Washers that have a water factor at or lower than 9.5 use up to 50 percent less water and energy per load.

• Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes or lower the water settings for smaller loads.

• Most water is wasted in your garden by watering when plants do not need it or by not maintaining the irrigation system. Make sure your irrigation controller has a rain shutoff device and that it's appropriately scheduled.

• Raise your lawn mower blade to at least 3 inches. Taller grass promotes deeper roots, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better than a closely cropped lawn.

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, H2ouse.org, www.wateruseitwisely.com

Lately, it seems Betty Shirley is never without a bucket.

Whether she's taking a shower or cooking dinner, the Rock Hill woman is sure to bring along a bucket or a trash can in the name of water conservation.

"When you don't feel like you can use the hose because of the drought and your plants are dying, you've got to do something," Shirley said.

After watching her lawn wither during the hot, dry summer, Shirley has taken the city's mandatory water restrictions to heart and improvised other simple ways to cut water usage.

A large trash can accompanies Shirley in the shower, catching the water as it warms and as she bathes. Meal preparations moved from the kitchen sink to a bucket, where Shirley washes her fruits and vegetables.

"It accumulates a whole lot more than I ever dreamed of," she said about the water savings.

Later, Shirley and her husband, Harold, carry the buckets into the yard to water their plants and flowers.

"My husband said he no longer has to lift weights at the Y because he's always carrying the water," Betty Shirley said.

The Shirleys also limit any unnecessary water use, such as scraping leftovers off dirty dishes rather than rinsing them and only running the dishwasher when it's full.

"It's just kind of homemade stuff, but we're desperate," she said.

Homegrown efforts like the Shirleys' -- as well as compliance with Rock Hill's watering restrictions -- have reduced water demand dramatically, according to Jimmy Bagley, utilities director for the city.

"Most folks are really trying to be proactive and stay on top of it," Bagley said. "We're seeing about a 23 percent reduction right now from what we saw before the restrictions."

While a few dozen residents continue to call the city's water hotline with questions each day, most seem to be adjusting to the new rules, Bagley said. He also noted the city has only issued four fines for water misuse.

"The calls are getting fewer, and I think most of them realize it's going to be hot and dry," he said. "There's not much they're going to be able to do about it."

Small-scale conservation tricks such as those practiced by the Shirleys certainly help, but Bagley said residents strain the water system most when watering their lawns.

"The one single thing they could do right now would be adhere to the ordinance actions regarding irrigation," he said. "Water's fairly inexpensive, but it really is a precious commodity."

Bagley warned residents not to expect the restrictions to be short lived. Unless forecasts change dramatically, the ongoing drought could force the city to move to stage three restrictions by late September or October, limiting watering to once a week.

"Without rain, that's probably an imminent next step," Bagley said.

Betty Shirley plans to keep up her water-saving efforts as long as necessary, and she is always looking to friends for new ideas for conservation.

"We just hope to have some rain before too long before everything's dead," she said.

Following are simple ways to cut down on wasted water.

n Check your water-using appliances and devices for leaks. Studies have shown homes can waste more than 10 percent of their water use because of leaks. If you have an older irrigation system, more than 50 percent of the water can be lost to leaks.

n A full bathtub can require up to 70 gallons water, while taking a five-minute shower uses only 10 to 25 gallons.

n Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save 4 gallons a minute.

n Toilets use the most water inside a home. Replace your toilet with an efficient 1.6-gallon flushing model.

n Switch your washer to an Energy Star-rated machine. Washers that have a water factor at or lower than 9.5 use up to 50 percent less water and energy per load.

n Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes or lower the water settings for smaller loads.

n Most water is wasted in your garden by watering when plants do not need it or by not maintaining the irrigation system. Make sure your irrigation controller has a rain shutoff device and that it's appropriately scheduled.

n Raise your lawn mower blade to at least 3 inches. Taller grass promotes deeper roots, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better than a closely cropped lawn.

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, H2ouse.org, www.wateruseitwisely.com

Water restrictions for Rock Hill, York, Fort Mill, Tega Cay and Lake Wylie:

n Irrigation systems and sprinklers may be used only twice a week between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Odd-numbered addresses may water Wednesdays and Saturdays. Even-numbered addresses may water Thursdays and Sundays.

n Hand watering is allowed any day of the week during the morning and evening hours. Runoff is prohibited.

n Washing cars, outdoor buildings and pressure washing is prohibited. Customers may use commercial car washes that recycle water.

n Lake Wylie residents also are asked to curtail pumping water from the lake for irrigation.

Violators will be issued a $50 fine. To report violations or learn more details, call the water hotline at (803) 326-2450.

Area water hotlines for questions about restrictsion or to report noncompliance:

Rock Hill: 326-2450

Fort Mill: 548-3353

York County: 628-2919

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