Raleigh, N.C. — As drought lingers and population numbers rise, water has become a precious commodity over which three Triangle communities are competing.
A dispute over water from the Neuse River between Franklin County and Raleigh has caught Wake Forest in the middle.
The City of Raleigh opposes Franklin County's' plan to use the old Burlington Mills plant to draw water from the Neuse River.
The county needs to develop new resources as it grows in order to provide adequate water service to new customers, Bryce Mendenhall, director of Franklin County Public Utilities, said.
"Certainly, we're not trying to get behind the eight-ball, per se, but (we're) also looking for valid resources," Mendenhall said. "And, certainly, the Neuse River is a valid resource."
Raleigh officials said taking water from the Neuse River will lower levels in Falls Lake, which serves as the city's primary reservoir. Falls Lake's water level is 65 percent lower than normal, and the lake is draining at an extremely rapid pace, city officials said.
"We actually don't want anyone to use it. It's not just Franklin County," Dale Crisp, director of Raleigh's Public Utilities, said.
Wake Forest town planners said they're closely watching the water fight between Raleigh and Franklin County. The town buys its water from Raleigh but wants to annex land in Franklin County.
Raleigh, however, is refusing to provide water to the newly annexed land until Franklin County gives up its plans to tap the Neuse River, Crisp said.
The City of Raleigh wants "Franklin County to withdraw their letter of intent to use the Neuse as a future water supply source," Crisp said.
Franklin County officials said acquiescing to that demand would hurt the county's ability to handle its own growth.
"You'd hate to see anybody stand in the way of us looking for the common good of the people moving in here," Mendenhall said.
The three sides will meet next month to discuss the issue, but the state will make the final decision on which communities can use the Neuse River as a water source, Crisp said.