With improvements to Mount Airy's water distribution system expected to be completed next month, town officials will consider easing water-use restrictions that have been in place since spring.
The town is spending $325,000 to expand and improve the water distribution system, making it more even throughout town. The north water tower is more heavily used because of greater development on the town's north side.
Mayor Gerald Johnson said a study addressing the town's water needs identified the distribution system as a key element.
"We have added water lines and tied into existing lines to make the distribution of water from the north and south towers flow better," Johnson said.
"This past summer," he said, "we would have alarms going off in our water system two to three times a week."
Those alarms would sound mainly on weekends, when outdoor water use peaked. A lack of water in the north tower has often prompted the alarms when water was available, but not as accessible, in the south tower.
During an emergency meeting in May, the Town Council banned outdoor water use. Late that month, though, rain helped take the pressure off the system. The watering ban was replaced by restrictions in June.
Under the restrictions, residents with even-numbered addresses are allowed to water gardens and wash cars on even-numbered days, those with odd-numbered addresses on odd-numbered days. The use of lawn sprinklers is permitted from 8 a.m. to noon on the appropriate days.
Those restrictions remain in effect, and the mayor said the town will decide whether to ease them as it watches the improved water distribution system.
Water restrictions are not new in fast-growing Mount Airy.
They were adopted three summers ago, when rain was so scarce and enforcement so tight that many people used bath water on their gardens, town officials said.
But the restrictions have posed problems for some.
Mount Airy resident Dick Cardany builds lily ponds for a living. He said his business must have a lush, green lawn and pristine landscaping.
"It's important for us to keep pretty grounds because customers see our property like a point of display in a retail environment," said Cardany.
He said the town's odd-even watering restrictions cause problems with his business and cost him customers.
"I was installing a lily pond in town and the customer told me we couldn't use the outdoor hose the next day. I've also had people hesitate to install a pond because of the constant concerns about water in town," he said.
The town's water study recommended looking for new water sources. Water use in Mount Airy has increased almost 50 percent in the past few years, as the population has more than doubled during the past decade.
"I think most residents are more cognizant of the water situation now. They realize we are on wells - not a reservoir and not the Potomac River - and we need to protect our resources as much as possible," Johnson said.