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Economist: Water Shortage, Tighter Restrictions May Dampen Business

Posted August 28, 2007

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— As Raleigh plans to tighten water restrictions from Tuesday, a local economist is worried that the statewide drought will have a negative trickle-down effect on local businesses.

Amid new, stricter water restrictions, the demand for water in Raleigh is expected to double in the next 30 years, according to a recent report. Dr. Mike Walden fears that report will discourage new businesses from coming to the Triangle.

"If businesses feel that maybe North Carolina is now in a new weather pattern, where water is going to be limited, that may affect our ability to attract new businesses," said Walden, a professor at North Carolina State University.

Walden estimates the drought could cost the state up to half-a-billion dollars annually.

Infrastructure is key to drawing new investment by industries, ranging from pharmaceutical companies to Pepsi Cola, said Kenneth Atkins, Wake County's economic director.

Novartis asked the City of Raleigh a few questions about infrastructure before it broke ground on a new plant in Holly Springs last week, Atkins said.

"Water and sewer, (those) capacities are one of the things they look at," he said.

Atkins said he's confident that future plans to increase and conserve Raleigh's water supply will help keep new businesses coming.

"I'm not concerned with companies having a problem with our water here," Atkins said, "simply because it is reasonably priced, it is available, and I think there are efforts being made in a lot of areas for conservation."

A $90 million improvement project at the Benton Water Treatment plant is scheduled to be complete in the spring of 2010. The city also plans to expand the water plant at Falls Lake and build a brand-new reservoir.

As the city considers projects to keep the water flowing and businesses afloat, residents will feel the impact of stricter water-use restrictions from Tuesday.

Under the new Stage 1 restrictions, homeowners will be limited to using irrigation systems and sprinklers only one day a week. Watering with hand-held hoses will be allowed two days a week. The days such activities are permitted vary by odd- and even-numbered addresses.

City officials warned against allowing irrigation systems to water impervious surfaces, including streets, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks.

Homeowners are also restricted to washing cars and power-washing homes and sidewalks only on the weekends. Businesses that provide such services are exempted from this restrictions.

The new restrictions also come with higher fines: A first violation will cost offenders $200, and officials said no warnings will be given out. A second violation brings a $1,000 fine, and after a third violation, water customers could have their service cut off.

The water restrictions will reach further into Wake County than Raleigh. The restrictions will apply to all customers on the City of Raleigh's water system, including residents of Garner, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon.

The new restrictions come as Raleigh's water use continues to break 2006 levels, according to Robert Massengill, Raleigh's assistant public-utilities director.

Between Aug. 24 and 26, Raleigh water users consumed an average of 65.6 million gallons of water daily, compared to a daily average of 60.5 million gallons during the same dates last year.

Raleigh also set the top three records for daily water use in August, topping the charts with 77 million gallons on Aug. 9.

6 Comments

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  • grumpyhermit Aug 28, 2007

    wildervb - much money invested in tobacco. it's mostly being irrigated from ponds ... most ponds look like they'll last the season, although lately I've seen a few drained dry by irrigation.

    I don't like tobacco. Worked in the fields as a kid. Nasty plant, all gummy and bitter. Smoked it for 30 years, lungs always hurt, getting up in the morning was an ordeal. Thank God I quit 5 years ago! Haven't felt better since I was a kid.

  • grumpyhermit Aug 28, 2007

    yeah, my Bermuda grass has loved this summer. About the only plant in the yard that has. I'm wondering if I need to start planting cactus.

  • wildervb Aug 28, 2007

    I'd like the whole state to ban the watering of Tobacco, everything else is dry, but the Tobacco fields are as green as ever.

    Why water a crop that ultimately kills its users?

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Aug 28, 2007

    The problem is that Raleigh has oversold it's water capacity.

    Raleigh should ban the sale and seeding of water hungry Fescue.

    Raleigh should ban the water of lawns for both businesses and consumers. A well established yard will go dormant and come back when the weather cools off and it rains.

    Raleigh should require that all new grass seed sales and seeding be low water use warm weather grasses including Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia.

  • WTFmph Aug 28, 2007

    Duh?

    Not enough water, roads or schools.

    We sit in rush hour traffic breathing each others' exhaust fumes backed up in bottlenecks, but that doesn't get the administration's attention, even though there're billions of WASTED DOLLARS and POUNDS of WASTED greenhouse gases spent. It does NOT come out of their pocket. It comes out of YOURS.

    Maybe the fact that people who do use logic in picking a site for their business will finally shine the spotlight on the absolutely horribly ingnorant situation we have allowed our elected officials to create.

    Does anyone realize that constricted roads double, triple or worse your commute time? Do we want to give OPEC more money because our politicians are morons? Do we want to get lung cancer because we are sitting in traffic sucking up each others' tailpipes?

    Exhaust on I-40 in a jam is MUCH worse than the secomd-hand cigarette smoke you guys are so against.

    Give growth a REST.

    Please let your elected officials know that you are tired of it.

  • Mobile Geek Aug 28, 2007

    So instead of watering your grass 3 times each week, you can water your grass 3 times on the same day. Not quite so effective, but what is to stop someone from doing that? Whether it makes sense or not is irrelevant.

    It would also seem that Raleigh has its priorities all screwed up. We are in a critical situation with water, and have had this kind of trouble for the past few years, although it may be worse this year. Still, with the city growing as it has been, you'd think someone would put water as a higher priority than a useless Convention Center. What's the bill for that center now? $300 million? Sounds like that would go a long way in building a new water reservoir. But I guess we need it to attract more people and businesses to our city so they can live under water restrictions.