Local News

Tougher Water Rules Drying Up Some Green Businesses

Posted January 22, 2008 11:41 p.m. EST
Updated January 23, 2008 9:36 a.m. EST

— Restrictions for Raleigh water customers could soon get tougher. The city wants residents to reduce daily water usage to 35 gallons or less.

Falls Lake, Raleigh's main water source, is about 10 billion gallons below normal.

Next week, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker plans to meet with six other Wake County mayors to discuss the drought and tougher restrictions, including a ban on hand watering. That is in addition to the current rules that prevent all outdoor irrigation.

The mayors are from the towns that get water from the Raleigh system.

Michael Hoskins with Groundscapes of NC said the drought and water restrictions have dried up much of his landscaping and irrigation-system business. He has laid off half of his workers.

"It shut us down. Planting, sod installation – we do not get any calls for that whatsoever. The only thing we're getting calls for is the outdoor living spaces, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, patios. That's what has kept our head above water right now," Hoskins said.

The same thing has happened to a group of 300 or so "Green Industry" professionals who depend on water and irrigation to make a living. They held a meeting Tuesday night to make sure mayors, city council members and state lawmakers know just how much the drought is hurting their livelihood.

"You're not going to solve that issue just by banning irrigation. You're not going to solve it by stopping landscaping practices. You're going to solve it by changing the entire mindset of a community," said Kurt Bland with Bland Landscaping.

However, irrigation "represents about 30 to 35 percent of the demand in the warmer months, and there's no getting around that," said Ed Buchan, a water specialist with the city Public Utilities Department.

The North Carolina Green Industry Council said the drought is costing its members $8.6 billion.

"When somebody gets laid off in my profession, it's just as important as if they got laid off in a manufacturing job," Bland said.

The group's message to leaders was to give them a 30-day variance on the irrigation ban to establish new plantings and to allow citizens to water twice a week to maintain what they have already planted.