Try to conserve water

The good news? Rock Hill residents no longer will have to remember what their legal watering day is.

That's about all the good news regarding the continuing drought. As of today, residents are permitted to water trees and shrubs only by hand with no use of sprinklers or irrigation systems allowed.

This is the next step in the city's effort to reduce local water consumption. While scattered rainfall this week has been a boon for thirsty plants, it has done almost nothing to alleviate the water shortage in one of the most severe droughts in the region's history.

The water level at Lake Wylie, primary source of water for York County, is nearing its minimum elevation. Duke Energy officials say very limited water resources remain in the Catawba River basin, and the storage left in the basin is declining at a rate of 2 percent to 3 percent a week.

City officials hope that the ban on nearly all outdoor watering and voluntary conservation efforts by residents at least will delay the need for a Stage 4 drought declaration. But without more rain, reaching Stage 4 would be unavoidable.

If that occurs, even more uses of outdoor water would be eliminated, including at car washes and other businesses. Stage 4 also could bring efforts to reduce water use inside homes for bathing, drinking, cleaning and cooking. Commercial and industrial users also could be placed on activity schedules and contingency plans.

Homeowners don't have to wait until Stage 4 is declared to begin sensible efforts to reduce their water usage. For example, run laundry and dishwashers only with full loads; take shorter showers; flush toilets less and make sure they meet current codes for low-volume water use; check for leaks in your water supply system; and don't let faucets run while shaving or brushing your teeth.

If the drought persists -- and forecasters think chances are good it will -- the emphasis will shift to protecting health, safety and economic welfare. Personal comfort and convenience will become a lower priority.

City officials also should pinpoint the largest water consumers in the community, including commercial, industrial and institutional users, and work with them to find ways to reduce water consumption. Companies could begin now to monitor their water use and seek ways to save water.

Parts of North Carolina and Georgia have been hit even harder by the drought than South Carolina. Many cities in those states have less than 100 days' supply of water left if the drought and current consumption levels continue.

But that is scant comfort for South Carolinians who might be days away from finding themselves in the same situation. All we can do is hope for rain and remember that every drop of water saved delays the day of reckoning.

With continuing drought, city has banned almost all outdoor watering, starting today.