Originally created 07/12/98

Bans on watering common



Richmond and Columbia County residents are not alone in their plight to save their withering lawns and plants amid water restrictions.

Sprinklers are idled elsewhere too, as cities unable to meet the needs of their residents' water usage are implementing a variety of water restrictions.

Jacksonville, Fla., water levels have been so depleted from the city's underground water wells since early June that at times there hasn't been enough water pressure for some residents on the city's southside to take a shower, flush toilets or wash clothes or dishes, said officials.

Jim Manning, chairman of Jacksonville's Air and Quality Division of the Regulatory and Environmental Service Department, said the city's water supply, provided by the Jacksonville Electric Authority, has not been able to keep up with the quick growth of the city's population.

"They (JEA) were finding that the demand on their water system was exceeding the ability to supply it," he said.

With a population of more than 800,000, Jacksonville's water usage peaked at about 103 million gallons per day. When the city began to experience a shortage of pressure in fire hydrants, followed by restaurants closing because they couldn't maintain sanitary facilities, the mayor declared a water shortage emergency June 4, Mr. Manning said.

The city's air and water quality division was asked to help enforce JEA's water restrictions. The city is currently under a odd-even watering system. Odd-numbered addresses water only on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday; even-numbered addresses may water only on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. No watering is allowed on Friday.

Violators of water restrictions are issued a $50 citation. Since the water restrictions were implemented over 700 people have been fined for violating the restrictions.

Mr. Manning said water restrictions have lowered water usage to 85 to 90 million gallons per day, an amount that JEA can supply. The city has also planned to build more wells to meet water needs as the city's population continues to grow.

Proximity to a water source doesn't necessarily mean people are free from water restrictions. Niles, Ill., nestled on the banks of Lake Michigan, has annual watering restrictions placed on it by Chicago, which sells water to Niles, said city officials.

"It's just to ensure that they (Chicago) would have enough water pressure in case of a fire," said Susan Bus, of Niles' finance department.

Between May 15 and Sept. 15, residents of Niles are prohibited from watering from noon to 6 p.m. daily, which is considered to be the least effective time to water anyway, said Ms. Bus.

She said most residents comply with the restrictions, but local law enforcement periodically warns violators.

Gainesville, Fla., residents were asked to voluntarily limit water use beginning May 20 because a lack of rainfall and increased water usage.

"April's average demand on the water system increased 5 to 7 million gallons per day," said Rick Davis, a Gainesville Regional Utilities plant manager.

On June 23, the Alachua County Commission issued an emergency water restrictions as a result of a drop in water pressure during morning hours. An odd-even system allowing water use only between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. was implemented until July.

These restrictions were on top of the restrictions mandated by the St. Johns Water District, which prohibits watering between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily. The St. Johns Water District covers only a portion of Gainesville. Gainesville is currently on voluntary water restrictions.