A little more than a year after twice-a-week outdoor restrictions were lifted, the rules are going back into effect for almost all of Tarrant County today.Stage 1 restrictions are triggered when the Tarrant Regional Water District, which provides raw water to 98 percent of Tarrant County, hits 75 percent of its storage capacity.The recent round of rains haven’t been enough to avoid hitting that threshold, the water district said.Even if we see rain in the coming weeks that eases the drought, it won’t mean the restrictions will suddenly end.“We want to avoid a situation of going in and out of Stage 1,” said Mark Olson, the water district’s conservation and creative manager. “We want to recover to a point to not be dipping back to 75 percent storage capacity within a minimum of three months.”The rules are the same as they were a year ago, with the exception of hosing down paved areas. Last year, it was a restriction. Now it is just a recommendation. The rule had a negative impact on the commercial spray industry that wasn’t intended, Olson said.Residential customers whose addresses end in odd numbers will be allowed to water lawns and landscapes with sprinklers on Sundays and Thursdays. Addresses ending in even numbers may water only on Saturdays and Wednesdays.Nonresidential customers, including apartments, businesses, parks and common areas, may water only on Tuesdays and Fridays.No outdoor watering is allowed on Monday.Other Stage 1 measures include reducing the frequency of draining and filling swimming pools. Watering is still prohibited between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., when evaporation is at its highest.A hand-held hose, soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems are not subject to the rules.“I think it's important that people realize that twice per week is something that should not have an impact on the quality of our landscapes,” Olson said. “By watering infrequently and deeply, you encourage your lawn to grow deeper roots.”Fort Worth officials are preparing to put out signs and banners, reminding customers that the restrictions have gone into effect.“The biggest thing is making people aware of the restrictions and understanding what their watering days are,” said Fort Worth Water Department spokeswoman Mary Gugliuzza. “In most cases, once people understand what their days are, they are compliant.”Anyone establishing new landscapes can apply for a variance in Fort Worth. Residents who have their own water wells are excluded from the rules.This is second time the water district, which provides raw water to 1.8 million people, has implemented Stage 1 restrictions.The last time was in August 2011, and they were lifted in May 2012. There was some discussions last year in Fort Worth and Arlington of making those restrictions permanent, but it stalled after opposition surfaced.In 2011, water use dropped by 8 percent from what Tarrant Regional projected it would have been without restrictions.In July and August without restrictions, water usage can climb as high as 500 million gallons per day or more.In January, when outdoor water usage is low, it can drop as low as 200 million gallons per day.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna