Prepare for more parched plants: Stage 3 drought rules in effect

Turn off those sprinkler heads. New water restrictions are in place for most of York County this week, limiting lawn watering to once a week. The new rules, put in place Monday by utility officials, follow last week's announcement that much of the Carolina Piedmont, including York, Chester and Lancaster counties, has been elevated to a Stage 3 drought by Duke Energy officials.

The tougher rules clamp down on many water uses. Here are answers to some common questions about the restrictions:

Question: When can I water my grass?

Answer: Odd-numbered addresses may water from 9 p.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday. Even-numbered addresses may water from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday. All other times are prohibited.

Q: What about my garden and potted plants?

A: Hand-watering for small plants and shrubs is allowed daily. But utility officials are asking residents to water sparingly and to do it in the early morning or late evening to prevent evaporation. And remember, any watering that results in runoff is prohibited.

Q: When can I wash my car?

A: You can't. At least, not at home. All car, boat and other vehicle washing is banned. All pressure washing and outdoor washing is off limits, too. If you must wash your dirty vehicle, take it to a commercial car wash that recycles water.

Q: I need to aerate and seed my lawn. Can I get a special permit to water?

A: Nope. Utility officials are strongly discouraging all new landscaping because there won't be any exceptions to the watering rules.

Q: I live outside of Rock Hill -- do the rules apply to me?

A: Probably. Unless your water comes from a well, in which case you're off the hook, the rules still apply. Rock Hill's regulations apply to Fort Mill, Tega Cay, Lake Wylie and York County water customers. Clover, York and Chester County have similar rules. Check with your water supplier if you're unsure.

Q: How can I report my neighbor for breaking the rules?

A: Call (803) 326-2450. The city of Rock Hill's water hotline is the place to receive more info and report offenders. Fines begin at $50 for first-time offenders.

Q: Will it ever rain again?

A: The chances this week can't get much worse. Forecasters are calling for clear skies and lots of sunshine. It's cooling off by Friday, but chances of rain are slim to none.