Local News

Raleigh May Ban All Outdoor Watering; Tips for Saving Plants

Posted January 21, 2008 10:54 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2008 11:42 p.m. EST

— Water restrictions could soon get even tighter in Raleigh. City leaders are considering imposing the toughest water restrictions on record as they watch the water level in Falls Lake.

"The lake level is improving, but the reality is, the lake is about one-third full. We want to have it full at the start of the warm weather season. At current rates, it will not be full," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

If imposed, Stage 2 water restrictions would prohibit all outdoor watering, including watering with a hose or watering can. Homeowners would also be banned from power-washing. Car washes that don't use recycled water could also face restrictions.

The threat of an outdoor watering ban is particularly upsetting to folks who have a lot of money invested in landscaping, but people can take steps to keep plants and trees alive without water.

"Plants that are established in a good, rich, organic soil really don't require nearly as much water as those plants that are haphazardly planted in the clay soil," said Joshua Logan with Logan's Trading Co.

When the soil is topped with a thick layer of mulch, the moisture keeps even better. There also are synthetic solutions that can be added soil.

"It will expand and absorb water up to 50 to maybe 100 times its current volume," Logan said.

Since watering soon may not be an option if Raleigh bans irrigation, folks at Logan's have been capturing rain water.

"These are rain barrels, or rain catchers as some people call them," Logan said.

Logan's sold 10 rain barrels in 2006, but 500 since folks began worrying about the drought.

"A tenth of an inch of rain is generally enough to fill one of these barrels," Logan said.

Some people have forgotten about watering altogether and have bought bulbs instead.

"They've got all their food in their little bulb. It's a great thing to plant, and you don't need to water them," Sarah Mendell said.

Raleigh is also urging its biggest water-users to conserve. N.C. State has installed low-flow devices across campus. A university spokesperson said the institution has saved an estimated 57 million gallons of water since July, mostly due to the low-flow devices.

The Raleigh City Council will get a full report Tuesday night on the steps major water users are taking to conserve.

Cary is also talking about new water restrictions. Tiered water rates and outdoor watering proposals are just two possibilities leaders are considering. Projections estimate Cary's daily water demand could double by the year 2030.