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EPD tightens outdoor watering schedule in state
By Dan Rahn
University of Georgia

The director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has declared a level two drought response statewide, permitting outdoor watering only in the morning on designated days.

"Every area of Georgia has been in a persistent and progressive drought condition since last June," said EPD Director Carol Couch in an official release. "It's important that we take steps now to prepare for the warm, typically dry summer."

In a level two drought response, outdoor watering is allowed only from midnight to 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at odd-number addresses and Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at even-numbered and unnumbered addresses.

Watering outdoors isn't allowed on Fridays. There are exemptions, though, for newly planted turfgrass and other plants and for commercial users.

The decision came after a meeting of the state drought response committee. State climatologist David Stooksbury, who consults with Couch and the committee, said earlier in the week that much of Georgia is in moderate to severe drought.

Too dry too early

But the biggest problem, he said, is that it's usually not dry at all at this point in the year. "We're in worse shape now than we were in last June," he said. "March was very dry, and it's historically a very wet month in Georgia."

As the weather warms in the summer, the demand on water generally increases.

Georgia has been in a level one drought response all year, with watering allowed only from midnight to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to midnight on designated days.

There are four levels of drought responses, Stooksbury said. At level three, outdoor watering is allowed only on either Saturday or Sunday. At level four, no outdoor watering is allowed.

"Levels one and two are convenience, awareness and efficiency levels," he said. "At levels three and four, we'd be looking at economic impacts."

Best times

The best thing about the outdoor watering schedule at level two, Stooksbury said, is that the hours allowed are the very best times to water anyway.

"That's when you have the least evaporative losses," he said, "and when plants stay wet for the shortest time." When plants are wet, he said, they're most susceptible to diseases."

Just because you're allowed to water on a given day, though, doesn't mean should water. "Ironically, many plants die from overwatering during drought," Stooksbury said.

For advice on the proper care of lawns, landscapes and gardens during droughts, he said, visit the official state drought Web site at www.georgiadrought.org.

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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