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Landscapers unhappy with water restrictions

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WILMINGTON -- When it comes to the drought landscapers have some strong words for Wilmington city leaders. They say the water restrictions are too severe and hurt their business. They voiced their concerns at Tuesday night's city council meeting. Back in November, Wilmington city leaders voted to allow professional power washers to operate despite the worsening drought. Now landscapers say they too are feeling squeezed. Landscaper Don Curtis said, "The severity of the water restrictions here are stopping all the projects done by landscapers and golf course superintendents." Curtis has already had to lay off three people, a third of his workforce. He says the Wilmington city council has gone too far by banning all types of irrigation, including that for newly planted lawns. "Landscapers are losing their businesses," Curtis said. "Several have gone bankrupt. We've got layoffs happening everyday." Landscapers like Curits say allowing irrigation for the first 30 days after a lawn is planted would allow their businesses to survive. And while city leaders are sympathetic to their cause, they worry about easing water restrictions without examining the issue thoroughly. Wilmington City Councilman Ronald Sparks said, "If we do anything we need to make sure it conforms with what other cities affected by the drought are doing." As a comparison, Wilmington leaders plan to look at water conservation measures in Raleigh and Atlanta, cities worse off than Wilmington when you factor in population. While Atlanta has an irrigation exemption for newly planted lawns, Raleigh does not. Sparks says it's the council's duty to responsibly and equitably manage the dwindling water supply. Landscapers hope they do something soon, before they see their profits dry up too. Landscapers also want to help educate the public about water conservation when it comes to caring for their lawns. They will be presenting a proposal to the city council in February about what can be done.

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