Drought claims lawn watering

Another dry week, another new water restriction.

The city of Rock Hill on Monday banned the use of automatic sprinklers and irrigation systems, the latest step in confronting a drought that threatens water supplies across the Southeast.

The new rule, which takes effect Thursday, comes in response to an urgent request from Duke Energy. Duke officials asked for the sprinkling ban because of "the very limited water resources remaining" in the Catawba-Wateree Basin, where Rock Hill and other area cities get water.

"This is becoming an increasingly critical situation for us," City Manager Carey Smith said.

The storage left in the basin is declining at a rate of 2 percent to 3 percent a week, Duke said, leaving the basin at about 40 percent capacity.

"At that rate, we don't have too much longer before we start having some serious problems," said city Utilities Director Jimmy Bagley. "I'm hoping we can just hold on to what we have. If we can cut 10 percent more a day, that's huge."

Under the new rule, all forms of automatic watering are banned. Only hand-watering of trees and shrubbery is allowed. Until now, sprinkling was allowed one day a week.

The ban is part of an effort to stave off a Stage 4 drought declaration, which would eliminate the use of outdoor water, including at car washes and other businesses. Stage 4 also can include rations on water used inside homes for bathing, drinking and cooking.

Bagley said a decision on moving to Stage 4 could be made within the next month.

"We really don't want to get to the point where life has to change a whole lot," Bagley said. (But) all of those are things we would have to consider."

We'd like to know what you're doing at home to conserve water. Send your tips and suggestions to Sula Pettibon at spettibon@heraldonline.com or to P.O. Box 11707, Rock Hill, S.C. 29731.

Average gallons used:

• Flushing a newer toilet: 1.6 gallons

• Brushing teeth with water running: 2 gallons

• Shaving with water running: 3 to 5 gallons

• Running a dishwasher: 6 to 9 gallons

• Washing a full load of clothes: 40 gallons

• Taking a 5-minute shower: 10 gallons

• Taking a bath: 50 gallons

Calculate how much water you use a day at http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/sq3.html.