Belmont is tightening some of its mandatory water use restrictions that resulted from the recent Stage 2 declaration.

Effective immediately, the watering of lawns is prohibited at all times. This includes not only the continued prohibition against any type of irrigation or sprinkler system, as banned under Stage 2, but now includes lawn watering with the use of a hand-held hose.

The watering of plants, shrubs, or trees may continue using a hand-held hose with a spring-loaded nozzle on the schedule of days and times specified in the Stage 2 regulations. Also banned are ornamental fountains.

Civil penalties for violating any of the mandatory water use rules will remain as for Stage 2: up to $100 for residential customers and $500 for commercial or industrial customers, with possible disconnection for continued violations.

The actions are in anticipation of a Stage 3 water restriction, which is likely to occur within the next few weeks.

For more information, call the Belmont City Hall at 704-825-5586.

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Does this mean the fountain at Stowe Park too?

What about the football field and baseball field at South Point?

Does that mean the folks out at Belle Meade and Reflection Pointe have to stop watering?

What if we all just put out signs that say, “Well Water Used For Irrigation”, does that count?

How water restrictions are decided:

Wondering who and what decides local water restrictions?

At their heart is Duke Energy, which manages the Catawba River reservoirs under a federal hydroelectric license that expires in 2008. In negotiating terms of a new license, Duke created a drought-response plan that’s getting its first test.

How it works

The plan is designed to stretch water supplies during a dry spell.Twenty-four local governments, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities, belong to an advisory group that puts the plan into action. Each enacts its own water restrictions based on shared conservation goals.

Duke monitors three conditions: lake levels, for how much water is in its reservoirs; stream flows that feed the lakes; and the U.S. Drought Monitor.

As the drought drags on

The plan sets trigger points to respond to conditions.

At Stage 1, declared July 30, Duke reduced the amount of water released from its dams and closed some boat ramps as lake levels fell. Local water agencies asked customers to reduce water demand 3 percent to 5 percent.

At Stage 2, in effect Aug. 27, Duke further cut water releases, shutting down most of its hydro plants. Local governments set mandatory restrictions with a conservation goal of 5 percent to 10 percent.

More cuts to come?

Stage 3 awaits, probably later in October if no rain falls.Duke would further lower lake levels, especially at Lakes James and Norman, which hold most of the system’s water. Lake James could fall to as much as 15 feet below full pond in October. The winter months could take it still lower.

Municipal water users could face more restrictions to meet a Stage 3 conservation goal of 10 percent to 20 percent. The watering ban last week by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities and several other cities is as harsh as it’s likely to get for homeowners. Charlotte-Mecklenburg says it would turn to cuts among large industrial and commercial customers.

Stage 4 would further clamp down, with a goal of cutting water use 20 percent to 30 percent.

If rain doesn’t come

The Catawba won’t run out of water. But lake levels could drop to the point that intakes for power plants, municipalities and industries can’t pump water.

The region’s conservation efforts are trying to prevent that.

At Lake Norman, for instance, the critical intake-covering level is 10 feet below full pond. The lake is now 6.5 feet below full. Since a lot of water depth is under the intake, the lake could be left with billions of gallons — all out of reach.