With water levels lying below half the capacity of the city's reservoir, Rocky Mount is considering imposing stricter, mandatory restrictions on water use, said City Manager Stephen Raper.
Although businesses are exempt from some restrictions, owners said they're still paying the price.
The flowers and plants at The Green Thumb Nursery look good, despite the hot, dry weather. But owner Tom Moss said the green has been fading from his business since mandatory restrictions started August 1.
"August has been slower than usual," said Moss, who added that he's seen a 50 percent decline in business in August.
The traffic flow at Gregory Mann's car wash is also down to a trickle.
"(It's) slowed down a lot. My business has slowed down since the water drought," said Mann, owner of Mann's Mobile Auto Detailing.
Raper said the city is considering several ways to alleviate the water shortage, including adopting Stage 2 water restrictions soon. Under those regulations, residents would be allowed to water their lawns only once a week.
Code enforcers have cited a handful of people since the current water restrictions went into effect, but they have not seen any repeat violators, Raper said.
City officials are also negotiating for Rocky Mount to buy water from Wilson's Buckhorn Reservoir. Although its water levels are a third below normal, the large Buckhorn Reservoir contains 5 billion gallons right now, town officials said.
Recent rain in Louisburg, upstream from Rocky Mount, provided some temporary relief for the city, Raper said.
Business owners said they'll be grateful for whatever way Rocky Mount finds to bring more water down the line.
"I don't want a hurricane, but I sure could use 12 inches of rain," Moss said. "If we can have a good fall, it will all be be just a bad memory."
Mann suggested a more colorful alternative.
"All I can do is get out there and do a rain dance," he said. "Somebody's got to."