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Eased water restrictions help industry, homeowners
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The coordinator of the Hall County Extension Service said Wednesday that allowing the use of soaker hoses and drip irrigation will be good news for the plant industry and homeowners.

Billy Skaggs’ comments followed an announcement by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division that it would loosen restrictions currently in place in the state’s most drought-stricken region.

"The ability to use soaker hoses and drip irrigation as part of the landscape management plan for the homeowner and the commercial client is huge for the landscape industry," Skaggs said.

"It has been difficult to sell installation work when they have very few options for water."

He said a drip irrigation system uses half the water of an overhead spray irrigation system.

The announcement comes as the landscape industry enters its busy season. After two dismal years, there are many companies whose future hinges on the success of this year.

"We want to offer Georgians more watering choices, but also want to make it clear these exemptions will be withdrawn should water use rise significantly, or if the drought worsens," EPD director Carol Couch said in a statement released Tuesday.

Under an order issued by Couch, municipal water users in the 55-county Level 4 drought response area may water shrubs, trees and flower beds up to three days a week using drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses.

Odd-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Even-numbered and unnumbered addresses may water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The Level 4 area includes Hall and all of the contiguous counties.

The exemption does not include turf grass, which requires more conventional types of irrigation that would use significantly more water.

Skaggs said the announcement also is important to retail garden centers, which have struggled during the drought.

"Gardening is one of the top hobbies, and this option is going to allow them an easy and efficient way to water," Skaggs said

He said that the watering can be made more efficient by use of a water-controlling timer that is available at home and garden retailers.

State climatologist David Stooksbury says most of Georgia remains in various levels of drought with the most extreme conditions in the upper Savannah River basin in Northeast Georgia.

Water usage has declined since the state implemented heavy outdoor watering restrictions in 2007.

In February, the Gainesville water system, which serves most of Hall County, used an average of 15.56 million gallons per day, up slightly from the February 2008 average of 15.4 million gallons.

EPD has allowed 52 local governments, water users and industries additional exemptions. The Gainesville system is not eligible for additional exemptions because it uses water from Lake Lanier, which remains at very low levels.

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