Local News

Raleigh Prohibits Lawn Sprinklers

Posted October 16, 2007
Updated October 17, 2011

— A day after Gov. Mike Easley asked all North Carolinians to do their part to help conserve water, the Raleigh City Council agreed to ban mechanical outdoor watering to conserve the city's dwindling supply of drinking water.

Even then, however, the tighter restrictions could add only nine days to the capacity at Falls Lake, the city's primary reservoir, City Manager Russell Allen said. The lake is down almost 8 feet from normal levels.

"I think we will get rains that will begin to restore the levels in the lake. That's something we will have to monitor," Allen said.

Raleigh implemented Stage 1 restrictions seven weeks ago, which cut consumption by 18 percent, to about 54 million gallons a day. Mayor Charles Meeker said officials want to get daily demand below 50 million gallons, however, and he noted lawn watering consumes an inordinate amount of water.

"It's time to stop the outdoor watering," Meeker said, citing data that shows water use jumps by 35 percent on days when homeowners are allowed to water.

Almost 300 homeowners and businesses have been fined $200 each for water violations since the restrictions were implemented. Seven homeowners and three businesses – Brier Creek Country Club, Bahama Breeze and a Bojangle's on New Bern Avenue – have been cited twice, including one on Monday, which resulted in a $1,000 fine for each.

The "Stage 1.5" restrictions, which mostly take effect next Tuesday, also would prohibit washing cars at home, but they immediately eliminated new city permits for 45 days of daily watering on newly seeded lawns. More than 970 permits have been issued since the Stage 1 restrictions went into effect, including 199 in the last week and 38 Tuesday morning.

"Some of it is homebuilders finishing a house, and they want to be able to sell it," said Ed Buchan, a water conservation specialist with Raleigh's Public Utilities Department. "They made plans long ago to establish this yard, and they spent (thousands of dollars) and they're trying to maintain it."

Several homeowners with watering permits told WRAL that they plan to curtail or halt lawn watering even though they haven't exhausted their 45-day exemptions.

The new rules, which do allow hand-held watering two days a week and pressure washing on the weekends, wouldn't affect most businesses that rely on heavy water usage, such as car washes. Meeker said the city has been reluctant to move beyond Stage 1 for fear of adversely impacting businesses.

"We're trying to do things that conserve water but don't take jobs away from people," he said. "It's going to affect some of the landscaping companies, but we're trying not to affect other companies."

The drought already has dealt a blow to some businesses, such as Logan's Trading Co., a nursery located north of downtown Raleigh.

"This September, we saw about a 30 percent decrease in sales as compared to the same month last year," Joshua Logan said. "You can pretty much kiss the lawn-watering business goodbye. I haven't watered my grass since April."

Still, Councilwoman Jessie Taliaferro questioned why the city wasn't moving ahead to Stage 2 restrictions to conserve as much as possible.

"With the long-range forecast that we have, I want to make sure we're doing everything we can to be proactive and protective," Taliaferro said. "I think we're kidding ourselves if we don't think about going to Stage 2 sooner rather than later."

The National Weather Service has been forecasting drier-than-normal weather in the coming months.

In an address to the annual conference of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, Easley said the water restrictions in place across North Carolina aren't conserving enough water. However, he stopped short of declaring a state of emergency and instead called on every community and resident statewide to cut back on their water consumption.

"A little sacrifice now can prevent a crisis and a disaster in the spring," he said.

Durham City Manager Patrick Baker on Monday issued a ban on outdoor watering that took effect Tuesday. Baker said recent restrictions put in place haven't reduced consumption as much as expected.

The Little River Reservoir and Lake Michie, the primary water sources for Durham, are 14 and 15 feet below normal levels, respectively.

Raleigh officials said they plan to continue to be aggressive in their conservation efforts.

"We're responding to conditions as they arise," Meeker said.


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  • ladyblue Oct 17, 2007

    I remember 02 and no that was not as bad as 07 because itwas not the whole state. Some places had too much some had none. This is statewide and I'm 60 and have never seen it this dry in NC all over the state. Those who laugh now let's see if you're laughing later.

  • xtrmheat Oct 17, 2007

    "We're responding to conditions as they arise," Meeker said. Uh hello? Mr. Meeker, sir? You ever heard about being proactive? This IS our water supply you know - one of those things needed for living? Forget the plants, even with a little hand held water bucket. Keep the water for living. Pro-act so you don't have to Re-act!

  • PikeQueen Oct 17, 2007

    Why can't we haul water in here? We haul everything else.I just don't think it's as bas a it's made out to be.I have seen it worse.I don't see the building stopped.I don't see the illegals being stopped from having 10 to a household.I see many things that contribute to this besides people watering lawns and washing cars.Wonder how the grass at the Capital looks?

  • Billfisher Oct 17, 2007

    drh3102- "And provide a real phone number so that John Q public can call in and report people not playing by the rules"

    WOW...Have you nothing better to do than ride around playing water cop? Get a job and quit concearning yourself with what others are doing. I bet you live in Cary don't you. I grew up in Preston and my parents still live there. People like you have ruined a perfectly good neighborhood, always riding around worrying about someone else. Forget the job, get a life.

  • Jeepguy Oct 17, 2007

    You can use a sprinkler after today anyways. So starting the ban next Tuesday or today does not matter. After today, Wednesday, which is the even address' water day, irrigatio will not run again. Know the restrictions!

  • Raptor06 Oct 17, 2007

    Shame on you Raleigh leadership! This prohibition should have happened many weeks ago!!! A green lawn isn't a quality of life requirement.

  • drh3102 Oct 17, 2007

    "restrictions, which mostly take effect next Tuesday". What? Isn't this a real problem? Shouldn't these restriction take effect NOW! How much water has to run down the sidewalks and streets over the next week to make us see that this should have been a NOW order and not a new week problem. And provide a real phone number so that John Q public can call in and report people not playing by the rules.
    Also while the lakes are dry is the perfect time to send in the bulldozers and dump trucks and make them deeper. Look at the pictures, the lakes are only kiddie wading pools. Open them up, make the deeper and maybe even free up some free land fill dirt for those who need it. A little work now will save a huge problems in the future.

  • coolwill Oct 17, 2007

    They are still using concrete, stop the growth. Let’s run a water line to Mexico. (Joke, get hepatitis shots first)

  • TontoKozlowski Oct 17, 2007

    Question for all you environmentalist..How do people get drinking water in Phoenix, Albequrque(sp), Salt Lake City, Amarillo and other places where it almost NEVER rains? This is a joke....

  • HJRVS Oct 17, 2007

    Speaking of ’02, we had a similar drought and all the same nannies were calling it the end of the world. Jordan lake was closed because the water level was too low. Then the very next spring the ramps were closed again. This time because the water was too high! Grow up people!!