Outdoor watering of ground cover, trees, shrubs or other plants is allowed between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. only for residents of the City of Toccoa and unincorpated Stephens County. Violations of this policy may result in criminal or alternative penalties.
These regulations were adopted in November 2010 following a state legislature mandate that all municipalities and counties in Georgia establish these regulations prior to Jan. 1, 2011.
The goal of this statewide effort is to conserve water and allow cities and counties to plan for water supply enhancement during future extreme drought conditions.
The following outdoor water uses also are allowed daily at any time of the day by anyone:
- Commercial agricultural operations as defined in Code Section 1-3-3;
- Capture and reuse of cooling system condensate or storm water in compliance with applicable local ordinances and state guidelines;
- Reuse of gray water in compliance with Code Section 31-3-5.2 and applicable local board of health regulations adopted pursuant thereto;
- Use of reclaimed waste water by a designated user from a system permitted by the Environmental Protection Division of the department to provide reclaimed waste water;
- Irrigation of personal food gardens;
- Irrigation of new and replanted plant, seed, or turf in landscapes, golf courses, or sports turf fields during installation and for a period of 30 days immediately following the date of installation;
- Drip irrigation or irrigation using soaker hoses;
- Handwatering with a hose with automatic cutoff or handheld container;
- Use of water withdrawn from private water wells or surface water by an owner or operator of property if such well or surface water is on said property;
- Irrigation of horticultural crops held for sale, resale, or installation;
- Irrigation of athletic fields, golf courses, or public turf grass recreational areas;
- Installation, maintenance, or calibration of irrigation systems; or
Outdoor water use for any purposes other than watering of plants, such as power washing or washing cars, is still restricted to the current odd/even watering schedule.
- Odd-numbered addresses can water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
- Even-numbered and unnumbered addresses are allowed to water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Here are some general guidelines for outoor watering:
- Don’t water until plants need it. That may sound strange, but far more plants die from over-watering than under-watering. How do you know plants need water? The best way is to let your finger be the guide. Dig down several inches near the base of the plant. If the soil is bone dry, that’s your cue to water. Also, when a plant begins to show signs of wilting, especially in the morning, it probably needs water.
- Deep soak each time you water. Many people water lightly and frequently, causing a shallow root system. Watering deeply and infrequently, deep soak, creates a healthy root system that is better equipped to withstand heat and drought.
- Stop watering whenrunoff occurs, especially on slopes. That may mean turning the water on and off in cycles to allow moisture to soak into the ground, but it beats watching the water flow down the street.
- Use watering cans, whenever possible, especially when watering just a few patio plants. Watering with a hose may actually put more water on the patio than in the containers as you move from plant to plant.
- Capture and recycle rainwater by placing barrels or buckets beneath your downspouts.
- Water early in the morning, when temperatures are mild and winds are calm, so less water will be lost through evaporation. Don’t water if rain is in the forecast. Follow the city ordinance for optimal watering times.
- Check hose connections for leaks and repair them quickly. Even a tiny leak can translate into thousands of gallons of wasted water over a short period of time.
- Adjust your sprinklers so water is aimed directly at plants rather than sidewalks, paths, driveways or fences. Use sprinklers that emit large droplets rather than a fine mist, again to reduce losses due to evaporation.
- On automatic sprinkler systems, install a moisture sensor. This is a probe placed in the ground that determines when the soil needs water and then turns on the sprinkler. This is probably one of the smartest water-saving devices ever invented. It can save you tons of water and money.
- Install drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses in flower and vegetable gardens, around trees and shrubs, even in containers.
- All newly-planted plants need more water than they will later in their lives. Even plants billed as drought tolerant aren't macho during infancy and need special treatment their first summer.
- Soil exposed to full sun dries out much faster than soil that is shaded or mulched. A few inches of mulch greatly slows evaporation from soil.
- Focus on growing drought-tolerant plants. A number of beautiful plants, both native and non-native, can survive with less than an inch of water a week once established.
- Place water-loving plants in areas that receive shade in the afternoon. Even sun-loving plants will do fine provided they receive morning to midday light. In fact, the harsh afternoon sun isn’t that great for most plants.
- Create windbreaks, especially around vegetable gardens, to shelter plants and prevent drying.
- Add hyrogels to plants that dry out quickly, whether in the garden or in containers. These water absorbing polymer crystals swell to several times their original size and slowly release water into the surrounding soil. Hyrogels can be found at your local garden center.
- Mulch like crazy to slow the evaporation of moisture from the soil and to keep the soil cool. Try to stick with organic mulches that slowly break down and add organic matter to the soil.
- Keep weeds out of flower and vegetable gardens. Weeds are notorious for stealing water away from other plants, so if you’ll keep their populations in check, you won’t have to water as often.