Water limits to tighten within days

A Stage 3 drought will be declared across York County within a week unless the area experiences significant widespread rainfall, authorities said Tuesday.

And with no rain in sight, Stage 4 -- the most severe drought status -- could be put in place later this month, said Rock Hill Utilities Director Jimmy Bagley.

The Catawba-Wateree Drought Management Advisory Group, a collection of municipal leaders within the Catawba River Basin, including Rock Hill, York, York County, Fort Mill, Lancaster and Chester, decided Tuesday to hold daily conference calls to determine the best day to declare a Stage 3 drought.

"I wouldn't be surprised if even by Friday we were in a Stage 3," Bagley said. "It's bad enough that unless the hand of God gets involved we could move to a Stage 4 as soon as 10 days later."

A Stage 4 drought essentially bans all outdoor and nonessential water uses, Bagley said, while Stage 3 limits lawn watering to once a week and places restrictions on commercial uses.

Officials originally projected Stage 3 rules would take effect by Oct. 1, which was Monday. But Bagley said conservation measures have extended the status quo. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities banned lawn watering last week. However, area reservoirs, including Lake Wylie, are now dropping twice as fast as the drought continues, he said, meaning conditions are expected to worsen rapidly.

"People are doing a great job with conservation," he said. "But it's just not enough. Pray for rain. That's about the only thing that will change things now."