Drought, watering restrictions lead to brown lawns

ST. JOHNS, Fla. – State forestry officials battling woods fires in the area say St. Johns County is one of the driest counties in Florida, and that's a concern even to people not affected by the flames or smoke. It's turning their lawns brown.

Watering restrictions from the St. Johns River Water Management District -- which apply across northeast Florida -- limit watering to just two days a week. That makes it tricky to keep many plants alive. 

From March through November, odd-number houses can water Wednesday and Saturday and even-numbered homes can run sprinklers Thursday and Sunday -- and only for a one-hour period before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. those days.

The restrictions apply not only to water from public utilities, but also to private wells and surface-water sources. Reclaimed water -- used for irrigation in some newer communities and commercial property is not subject to the restrictions.

Violators are subject fines that begin at $118. 

During periods of extreme drought, individual communities may add more restrictive watering restrictions. 

The state of Georgia does not limit the number of days, but does limit the hours of watering to 4 p.m. to 10 a.m. 

Tom McCaughney with Proficient Grounds Maintenance has about 20 years of groundskeeping experience. He said watering twice a week is not enough with our current dry conditions. 

 "We're getting a little (of rain) here and there, and it's mostly pop up showers and it's probably not enough to really water the yards that need to be watered," McCaughney said. "There's a lot of dry spots in most of the yards."

Until that rain comes, McCaughey recommends following the watering rules and supplement by hand watering with a hose, which is allowed at any time.

Sandy Freeman and her husband work hard to keep their lawn green. 

"We can see all the neighbors yards. ... Everybody's lawn is looking pretty dry. It is a big concern," Freedman said. 

There are exceptions to the limits. Hand-watering is allowed at any time, and irrigation of new landscape is allowed at any time of day on any day for the initial 30 days, and every other day for the next 30 days -- provided that the irrigation is limited to the minimum amount necessary for establishment.

McCaughney said hand watering is really for treating the driest spots.

"When you have a large yard, it's almost impossible to get all of it covered. Hand watering is more for new plants and things like that," McCaughney said.

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