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Drought Has Raleigh Looking at Sprinkler Ban

Posted September 12, 2007
Updated September 13, 2007

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— The City Council will consider adopting tougher water restrictions next week, including a ban on all outdoor watering, to conserve the city's dwindling water supply.

Raleigh implemented Stage 1 water restrictions on Aug. 28, limiting residents to one day of outdoor watering a week with sprinklers and a second day of using a hand-held hose. That move came less than two months after the city first imposed mandatory three-day limits.

Since the Stage 1 limits took effect, daily water consumption has averaged about 50 million gallons on days when outdoor watering is prohibited. Average consumption on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when watering is permitted, is about 70 million gallons a day.

Dozens of people have been cited for breaking the new watering rules, though city officials said residents shouldn't call 911 operators to report violations.

The city has saved about 100 million gallons at week with the restrictions, but the deepening drought – the region has received only 17 percent of normal rainfall since the end of July – could soon force the city to move to Stage 2 restrictions to conserve as much water as possible.

"We are already at that first point where we start looking at it," said Ed Buchan, a water conservation specialist with Raleigh's Public Utilities Department. "Obviously, that could come right in the middle of grass-growing season, and we don't want that to happen."

Water levels in Falls Lake, the city's primary reservoir, are dropping by a foot every 10 to 12 days. Raleigh and the other municipalities that buy water from the city have enough water to last until about Jan. 20, Buchan said. Any rain would extend the supply.

The city has no water restrictions to impose beyond Stage 2, and officials hope it rains enough this fall that they will not have to craft a Stage 3, Buchan said.

"Something else we'd look at once we start considering Stage 2 is what our options are," he said. He said one option is to draw from Lakes Benson, Johnson and Wheeler, which don't have nearby water treatment plants.

"That's sort of like asking what are we going to do if a meteorite hits the city, you know? You can plan as much as you can, but you have to deal with it when you get there," he said.

State Climatologist Ryan Boyles said hoping for that level of improbability might not be well founded.

"It's not looking good, and we're concerned," Boyles said of the drought. "It's moving beyond, 'Oh well, we are not going to have enough water to keep our lawns green.'"

October and November are traditionally dry months in North Carolina, and the La Niña weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean means the region likely will get even less rain this winter than normal, he said.

"We are very quickly moving for this year to be considered the drought of record," he said, adding that the drought could easily extend into next year.

95 Comments

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  • seenenuf Sep 13, 2007

    We'd better get used to the "Southwest" look. By the way, they just turned on the sprinklers at my workplace and a third of the water is going on the sidewalk. Sheesh!

  • NeverSurrender Sep 13, 2007

    "Guys, building another reservoir does NOT create water. If anything, reservoirs depleted the waterways of water through evaporation and soil absorption. Health regulations determine how waste water is put back into the waterways and how far it has to go before the water is used in another system for drinking."

    ---

    No one is saying that a new reservoir creates water...what we're saying is that new reservoirs will capture more water during wetter times that would otherwise go downstream and give Falls Lake a reserve they could tap during the droughts.

    We still need to control growth so that it doesn't put the infrastructure even further behind the eight ball but the idea of having all of our water coming from a potential single point of failure seems to be rather poor planning for the future.

    I don't know about you but I feel safer when flying knowing that there is a reserve tank in addition to the main fuel tanks for those rare times wh

  • mvnull Sep 13, 2007

    "They also need to start finding other ways of increasing the water supply...building another reservoir or tapping other lakes ...."

    Guys, building another reservoir does NOT create water. If anything, reservoirs depleted the waterways of water through evaporation and soil absorption. Health regulations determine how waste water is put back into the waterways and how far it has to go before the water is used in another system for drinking.

    Water here is very cheap. Raleigh residents pay $2.27/1000 gallons (plus facility charges). Most Western states charge $3.75-4.00/1000 gallons. Increase rates by 50% and use the money to search for new sources.

    Another solution is to require the city to guarantee water for all building permits. If they can't guarantee water, the building permit cannot be issued. Growth HAS to be controlled or we will be in deep sludge (without water, I might add).

  • dws Sep 13, 2007

    no further restrictions planned as of now:
    http://www.newsobserver.com/news/wake/raleigh/story/702557.html

  • mvnull Sep 13, 2007

    "thx1138: I just think the comment about people with SUV's and water wasting does not go together. Judging a book by it's cover is not good practice."

    I don't have a lawn. However, I just spent a couple of thousand on plantings and found it discouraging that NONE of the landscapers I talked with knew anything about native plants.

    A friend of mine uses the "divide and conquor" method. Plant what you think will work. The next year, divide the plants that survived. Eventually, all your plants will be adjusted to the local environment.

  • mvnull Sep 13, 2007

    "thx1138: I just think the comment about people with SUV's and water wasting does not go together. Judging a book by it's cover is not good practice."

    I believe the context was with respect to self-important, self-centered people. Conspicuous consumption is a common trait -- whether a gas guzzling vehicle, a water guzzling lawn, a resource guzzling McMansion, or simply a $10,000 baby buggy.

  • the alliance Sep 13, 2007

    SAVE YOUR UNUSED TAP WATER FOR OTHER USES INCLUDING PLANTS :)

  • NeverSurrender Sep 13, 2007

    "I do think that the city is going to have to deal with the growth issue."

    ---

    They also need to start finding other ways of increasing the water supply...building another reservoir or tapping other lakes (I know there's some sort of bug-a-boo about tapping Lake Gaston but I'm sure $$$ could finesse those objections!).

    They've got plans for building out a reclaimed water system...they need to really speed that up as they seem to think a 30-60 year plan is sufficient. Waiting that long would be the height of stupidity...

    Then we fix the codes to mandate drought-tolerant lawn grasses (folks, fescue looks nicer but NC was borderline for it's survival in the best of times) and give incentives for installing efficient irrigation systems. Car washes and other businesses using lots of water ought to contribute to reclaiming that water for other non-potable uses such as irrigation.

    We can do this if we all work together...but looking at this thread, that's the toughest problem to solve.

  • NeverSurrender Sep 13, 2007

    "Plant Centipede or Bermuda or Zoyzia everybody!!! We could cut our water usage by millions of gallons per day by planting native, drought tolerant landscapings..."

    ---

    The grasses themselves won't save the water...more intelligent irrigation of drought-tolerant grasses will. Having an irrigation system with the time set to the appropriate amount of water needed (which isn't all that much once the lawn is established, our Bermuda that was laid this summer is still looking nice) is what will help conserve the water and still keep a nice looking lawn.

    I've got a neighbour across the street trying desperately to save his fescue and he does it by moving sprinklers manually across the yard on his one day to water. His sprinklers run at least five times longer than mine do and don't even come close to the efficiency of our system.

    That being said, Raleigh needs to really speed up the reclaimed water system build out and get the irrigation systems (mine included) off the potable supply.

  • jbtilley Sep 13, 2007

    "Plant Centipede or Bermuda or Zoyzia everybody!!! We could cut our water usage by millions of gallons per day by planting native, drought tolerant landscapings..."

    I'm just going to plant cacti on my lawn.

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