Local News

Drought Could Have Effect On State's Growth

Posted August 29, 2002

— Despite the recent rainfall, most people are still dealing with the drought. In some places, water restrictions may be just a start. Limiting development could be next.

"I think if it does last, then North Carolina gets the reputation for being a state where there are water restrictions, where water is not plentiful. Then yes, I think that could have a deterrent effect on people moving here as well as industry," said Dr. Mike Walden, an economist at N.C. State.

The Pinehurst Village Council has talked about banning new homes until the drought eases, but officials say even with all the growth North Carolina has seen, there should be plenty of water to keep growing.

"With good planning and good management and good cooperation among local governments in a region, we can meet our water needs for the foreseeable future." said John Morris, director of the state Division of Water Resources.

The drought may have put a scare into local governments, and some are looking for new water supplies. Durham has its eye on an old quarry, and Raleigh is thinking about tapping Lake Wheeler.

Other communities are teaming up. Cary, Apex and Morrisville already have joined forces, sharing the Jordan Lake water supply and a treatment plant. The search for more water will cost taxpayers.

"That may cost us somewhere between a quarter and a half billion dollars a year in terms of the additional cost as well as the fact that this sometimes can deter some additional economic growth," Walden said.

Officials say the restrictions will continue and in some places, they could become even tighter. Lake Wheeler served Raleigh until 1987 when the old water treatment plant on South Wilmington Street was shut down. In the next 10 years, the lake will again supply water through a new treatment plant near Lake Benson.

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