Good news arrived just in time for the spring planting season: People in Rock Hill and Fort Mill can use their sprinklers again, though only once a week.
Under relaxed drought restrictions approved Monday by the two governments, odd-numbered home addresses will be allowed to water on Saturdays, while even numbers can water on Sundays.
The change, which takes effect this weekend, loosens a total ban on sprinkling imposed last October. Enough rain has fallen in the past month to make an adjustment possible, though the area remains in a Stage 3 drought in which residential car washing is still banned.
"I want us to take advantage of this opportunity," Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols said. "But we are not out of the woods with this effort."
Because they buy water from the city of Rock Hill, Fort Mill and other municipalities are subject to the same rules. Meanwhile, Rock Hill takes its cues from a drought management committee comprised of officials from across the region.
It's essentially a trickle-down effect, said Paul Mitchell, engineer for the town of Fort Mill. Once rules are imposed, enforcing them becomes an ongoing challenge.
"That's not guaranteeing we capture everybody," Mitchell said. "But we make our best effort to enforce the rules."
Why the weekend?
A weekend-only policy is easier to enforce because if anyone uses sprinklers during the week, inspectors will be on duty to catch them. Violators can face fines starting at $50.
Landscape architect Scott Reister urges residents to continue planting trees and shrubs this spring because plants help prevent erosion, which can make conditions worse.
"Do we need to cut back on irrigation? Absolutely," he said. "Saying no to planting, I don't think is the correct way to go."
At least one Rock Hill resident is taking his own steps to conserve. Longtime city critic Tony Jannetta says he keeps more than 3,000 gallons of water stored in jugs at his home.
Speaking to Rock Hill leaders on Monday night, Jannetta explained that he collects runoff from his roof.