July 9, 2008

More Water Restrictions Discussed

By Jonathan Allen and Jenny Overman, Fort Mill Times, S.C.

Jul. 9--Despite Sunday's rain, regional drought monitors are likely to recommend local water authorities enact tougher restrictions or eliminate outdoor water use altogether during a conference call set for Thursday.

"The drought indicators have stopped moving up and are starting to regress," Fort Mill Engineering Director Paul Mitchell said Monday.

"It actually seems to be getting worse," Rock Hill Utilities Director Jimmy Bagley said. "During the conference call ... it wouldn't surprise me if we change the irrigation schedule or even eliminate it."

Last month, the Catawba River Drought Management Advisory Group agreed to meet twice a month rather than monthly to be able to more quickly address changes in drought conditions throughout the region. The conference call will be the first of the new bimonthly meeting schedule, Bagley said. Any recommendation on changes to water restrictions proposed by the CMAG would have to be approved by the individual water suppliers along the river, he added.

Local officials are not sure yet how much effect Sunday's storm had on the local drought conditions. But with as much as two inches falling in some areas, the rainfall was significant, Bagley said. However, the region is at least five inches behind its average annual rainfall for 2008 so far, and ended 2007 with a 15-inch rainfall deficit.

"We're a very rain dependent system," Bagley said. "The good news is, we can capture a lot of it."

Fort Mill, Tega Cay and Lancaster County officials said for the most part residents have been adhering to watering schedules

Tega Cay has handed out 75 citations for violating water restrictions, according to Tega Cay Building Official Tom Goebel. Residential violations carry a $50 fine while commercial violations incur a $100 fine. The fines also come with approximately $57 in court fees, he said.

In Fort Mill, officials have recorded 50 violations since June 11, Mitchell said. Most have been first and final warnings. After a warning a homeowner faces a $50 fine for a first violation, $150 for a second and $250 for a third.

After a warning commercial fines run $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $400 for a third offense. Fort Mill has handed out only five fines since June 11, he added.


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