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Businesses worried about tighter water-use rules

David Fudge shows the control valves for the new sprinkler system at the Farmers Exchange in Rock Hill on Wednesday. The new system collects the runoff in a tank so it can be recycled. Rock Hill is imposing Stage 3 water-use restrictions by the end of the month.
David Fudge shows the control valves for the new sprinkler system at the Farmers Exchange in Rock Hill on Wednesday. The new system collects the runoff in a tank so it can be recycled. Rock Hill is imposing Stage 3 water-use restrictions by the end of the month.

While sprinklers across Rock Hill are slowing to a drip, Bynum Poe is ready to turn his new irrigation system on full blast.

Poe, the owner of Farmers Exchange, has built a new irrigation system in his garden center that collects and reuses irrigation water instead of allowing it to run down the drain. Poe's method of eliminating runoff is especially important considering he and about 100 other concerned business leaders were told Wednesday morning to get ready for even tighter water rules in the face of a worsening drought.

In a special meeting at City Hall, Rock Hill utility officials reiterated a Stage 3 drought is likely by the end of the month. That means lawn watering will be cut to once a week, and any outdoor water use that results in runoff, even watering plants by hand, will be prohibited.

"It's time to let the grass go," Utilities Director Jimmy Bagley said. He noted that Rock Hill's cutbacks last month helped avoid stricter rules like those under way in Charlotte, where lawn watering is now fully banned.

"We may need to go to zero watering, but we're waiting as long as we can," Bagley said. "I would encourage everyone to pray for rain and continue to conserve."

Poe's conservation method is unique. He installed pumps in the bottom of all the storm drains at his Cherry Road store where he sells and maintains ornamental flowers, shrubs and grasses. After watering the plants, the runoff is collected, pumped into 1,000-gallon tanks and filtered for reuse. Poe expects about 80 percent of the city water emitted from hoses and sprinklers will be recycled.

"For three or four years, I've been thinking about what I could do to save all this water," Poe said. "Then with the drought like it is, I decided to go ahead and do it."

Bagley said Poe's system is an example of how businesses that rely on water can survive by getting creative.

"He has done just a phenomenal job," Bagley said. "We're not trying to shut down business; we just want people to conserve."

Other businesses may not have the same options. Drought-mandated water rules have eliminated the use of pressure washers that rely on city water, a common tool for painters and outdoor cleaning crews. Bagley said some companies that need water for washing have started pulling tanks of well water behind their trucks.

It's not all roses for Poe, either. He has had to tell customers to put off buying grass seed, a major item at his store, until it rains. He hopes the new irrigation method will save just enough on his water bill to balance it all out.

"Hopefully, it pays off," Poe said. "If it works right, we'll be using the same water today that we did yesterday."

Adam O'Daniel • 329-4069

Rock Hill utility officials on Wednesday outlined how Stage 3 water rules would impact businesses and residents. Remember, the rules apply to all water customers in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Tega Cay and rural York County. Here's a look:

• Use of irrigation systems and lawn sprinklers limited to once a week from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Odd-numbered addresses water on Wednesdays, even addresses water Sundays. Some industrial customers will water on different days to balance the demand.

• Planting new sod or seeding existing lawns is strongly discouraged.

• Hand watering is allowed, but water runoff of any kind is prohibited.

• All vehicle washing is prohibited, including dealerships and businesses, unless conducted by a commercial car wash that recycles water.

• All pressure washing is prohibited.

• Filling swimming pools is prohibited.

• Customers are encouraged to turn off all ornamental fountains.

• Companies seeking a water hydrant use permit must obtain a special variance.

• Major industries are asked to begin preparing a conservation plan.

• Violators will face fines beginning at $50.

• To report a violation or learn more, call the water hotline at (803) 326-2450.

CURRENT WATER RESTRICTIONS

• Lawn watering is restricted to twice weekly between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.: odd-numbered addresses Wednesday and Saturday, even addresses on Thursday and Sunday.

• Car and boat washing is prohibited

• Pressure washing is prohibited

• Postpone landscaping projects

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