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City orders mandatory water restrictions

In reaction to Virginia's severe drought conditions, the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County officials have declared mandatory water restrictions.

The restrictions went into effect at midnight, Aug. 22.

The restrictions began when the urban area water supply hit 70 percent, the lowest either the city or county has seen in years.

Earlier in the week officials decided to set the restrictions if the water supply fell to 70 percent or on Sept. 3, whichever came first.

In an effort to conserve water, the restrictions prohibit residents from watering their lawns and washing their cars at home.

Additionally, residents must stop washing sidewalks, streets, driveways, parking lots, exteriors of homes or apartments and commercial or industrial buildings.

In compliance with the restrictions, the University halted irrigation and fall planting, turned off ornamental fountains and stopped washing University vehicles, University Director of Utilities Cheryl Gomez said in a memo.

Residents may use a three-gallon watering can to water their plants, and all watering must be done before 7 a.m. or after 8 p.m.

Individuals also may use professional car washes to clean their automobiles.

Additionally, City and County officials are urging people to conserve water inside their homes.

"We hope people would respond well to our efforts," City spokesman Maurice Jones said.

Mandatory restrictions have not been activated in the area for the last 20 years, said Brad Humphrey, water conservation program coordinator for Charlottesville.

"This time last year we would have been at 90 to 91 percent of available capacity," Humphrey said.

First-time violators of the restrictions will receive a warning. Subsequent violations will be considered a class 3 misdemeanor, which could result in up to a $500 fine. Individuals also may face a punishment of residential water shutdown in their homes if the restrictions are continually disregarded.

The mandatory restrictions follow a four-year, countrywide drought that has brought Virginia's water supply to dangerously low levels.

A lack of substantial rainfall in recent months forced officials to examine stricter water conservation efforts.

Officials kicked off a major campaign to conserve water in early April and have been advocating involuntary restrictions since last fall.

"Our biggest concern is that September is our biggest month for water consumption," Humphrey said.

September is typically a dry month and Charlottesville sees a great influx of students and activities, such as fall sports, he added.

"We're just trying to take a proactive approach," he said.

University Energy Program Manager Tony Motto said simple changes to personal habits make a huge difference.

"The absolute biggest thing a student can do is to take shorter showers," Motto said.

A number of other Virginia counties already implemented mandatory water restrictions. Such areas include Roanoke, Fredericksburg, Chesapeake and Spotsylvania, as well as four or five others, Jones said.

"We are really starting to see an infringement on the quality of life here in Virginia," he added.