Local News

Durham's Water Woes Far From Over

Posted August 20, 2002

— Since imposing mandatory restrictions, Wake County officials say water use has dropped by 25 percent. People in Durham are also running the tap less, but their water worries are far from over.

Recent rains have poured new life into Durham lawns and green areas. It is also helped preserve precious water supplies.

"On those days when we've had rain, it has helped keep that demand down. People haven't used maybe a third even of what they would have used on several dry days," Durham water conservation coordinator Vicki Westbrook said.

Officials said part of the problem is the water level of Durham's Little River is really low. The river feeds one of Durham's primary supplies. Officials say it could be worse if demand was not down by more than 22 percent since mandatory restrictions took effect June 26.

"The days of supply is lingering right around the 80 to 82 days of supply, which is reflective of customers cutting back on water usage," Westbrook said.

The boat ramp to Lake Michie, Durham's primary water supply, leads to a sea of grass and weeds. In just four months, most of the lake has disappeared. At a cost of $50,000 a week, Durham is buying more than 3 million gallons of water a day from Cary.

"It gives us that 3 to 3.5 million gallons of water that's not coming out of our lakes," Westbrook said.

The city is monitoring supply, demand and the weather but more restrictions may be on the way. Durham's future plans for water supply may include siphoning from the hundreds of millions of gallons in the Hanson quarry north of Durham and taking water from Jordan Lake, but they said that option is years away.

Officials say that if current conditions persist, Durham will techincally run out of water by early November. Officials say the city actually has more than a billion gallons of water available, but its quality is not high and it would require much more treatment.

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