As Stage 1 watering restrictions went into effect Monday, banners were placed along fences and signs were posted in medians letting people know that new limits are in effect for almost all of Tarrant County. No sprinkler systems are allowed to operate on Mondays, and water customers must follow rules limiting outdoor watering to two set days a week.
So it struck the wrong note with some to see the Tarrant Regional Water District -- the agency that provides water to 98 percent of the county and that helped draft the drought plan -- spraying water from the Trinity River to establish grass along a levee in Fort Worth.
"To me it looks bad," said Fort Worth resident Walt Paquette, 82. "Even if they have a right to do it, today is not the day to be doing that."
District officials say that under the drought rules, it was perfectly legal.
Watering is allowed at any time on any day to establish new hydromulch, grass sod or grass seed within the first 30 days of placement.
But why try to start grass in August with temperatures topping 100 degrees?
The water district said the grass is needed for erosion control to satisfy an Army Corps of Engineers permit for a levee restoration project. "If we do not establish this grass now, then we could see more erosion in these areas in the future. That would mean spending additional taxpayer dollars to fix a problem that we have already corrected," according to a prepared statement from the water district.
"It is not the same as someone watering a fully established lawn that will survive even though it appears to be brown and dead," the statement says.
A corps official said that although he couldn't comment on the specifics of the water district permit, the district's explanation sounds consistent with policy.
For residents like Paquette, understanding the new rules was frustrating. In his case, he was upset that one of his two watering days was Sunday, when he has guests over and goes to church.
"It was just a bad choice, but I will live with it," Paquette said.
Mary Gugliuzza, a Fort Worth Water Department spokeswoman, said, "The reality is we would have had people complaining if we didn't give them a weekend day."
Apparently, not everyone got the message about the watering restrictions.
Sprinklers were gushing Monday afternoon at a Wal-Mart along Airport Freeway in Fort Worth. A spokeswoman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based company said it appears to have been an honest mistake.
"Wal-Mart strives to be a good neighbor by serving the community and complying with all local ordinances," said spokeswoman Dianna Gee. "Unfortunately, in this instance, our lawn care vendor watered our lawn as part of their regularly scheduled service. We will communicate with our vendor immediately to avoid this incident from occurring in the future."
In Richland Hills, one resident called the Star-Telegram to say her neighbors were still running their sprinklers before dawn Monday.
"They watered all day Sunday and they're going at it again today like nothing has changed," said the woman, who asked not to be indentified for fear of angering her neighbors.
It's up to each city how aggressively they pursue violators.
In Arlington, those who don't comply with the restrictions will get one warning before being issued a citation, said Julie Hunt, director of Arlington Water Utilities.
In Fort Worth, city employees will try several times to contact a violator before issuing a citation.
Staff writer Marty Sabota contributed to this report.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698