Local News

Durham Businesses Ordered to Cut Water Usage

Posted November 27, 2007
Updated November 28, 2007

— With only two months of drinking water left in Durham, city leaders Tuesday approved tighter water restrictions  that call for all businesses to cut water use and ban car-washing at home, effective Monday.

City Manager Patrick W. Baker enacted Stage 4 severe mandatory conservation measures. The ordinance allows commercial growers to use "the minimal amount for survival" for their plants.The restrictions continue a ban on all watering and sprinkling of lawns, grass, trees, golf greens and flowers.

Watering vegetable gardens and ornamental shrubs is permitted if a person uses a hand-held hose, container or drip-irrigation system, as had been the case under previous restrictions. That watering can only be done either between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. or between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

The ordinance orders all industrial, manufacturing and commercial enterprises to reduce consumption by 50 percent. Managers must document their efforts to reach that goal.

Many businesses with which WRAL talked said cutting water consumption that much will be a challenge.

At the White Star Laundry & Cleaners, reducing water consumption isn't an option. The drought has caused a spike in business there.

“It has gone up about 15 [percent]. We now have a lot of customers on wells and they're petrified their wells will run out,” owner Rita Foley said.

Foley said cutting consumption by 50 percent would simply leave her high and dry.

“The only way we could consider conserving water is to tell the public, 'Sorry, you can't use our equipment,'” she said.

“It's tough on everyone,” said Vicki Westbrook, deputy director of the City’s Department of Water Management.

Officials insist they don't want to put companies out of business; however, they must think about the future.

“We have to evaluate the economic impact of this versus not having any water down the line,” Westbrook said.

Like the White Star Laundry & Cleaners, folks at George's Garage restaurant said they have already cut water consumption as much as they can. Water is only by request, and paper plates are an option at lunch.

“If everyone has to go to paper plates, we will go to paper plates [at dinner, too]. If it's not everybody, no one will do it voluntarily,” owner Terry Bakatsias said.

Many companies have cut back on water. At IBM, waterless urinals contributed to a 32 percent decrease.

At Alsco Textile Cleaning Co., usage is down by 38 percent. A spokesman said further cuts would cause them to ship their laundry to other facilities and that could cost at least a half dozen jobs.

As of Monday, two of Durham's main water sources – Lake Michie and Little River – were below capacity. Officials said Lake Michie was 13.9 feet below full and Little River 26.2 feet below full.

With the new restrictions, which go into effect Monday, Dec. 3, city officials hope to decrease the daily water demand by an additional 10 to 20 percent.

At the time, the City of Raleigh doesn't plan to change its water conservation plan. It is under Stage "1.5" water restrictions.

Mayor Charles Meeker said usage has dropped to 41 million gallons per day. He also said the city has 108 days of drinking water left.


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  • nc resident Nov 28, 2007

    This is just the beginning with water problems. Wait till the yankees move back up north after using up the resources here in the south and and dam up the rivers. The mayors in raleigh and durham saying goes "Come on in, the water's fine" ....yeah right

  • dcatz Nov 28, 2007

    What happens when Durham runs out of water? Nothing. They'll pipe it in from elsewhere. Worst case scenario is a higher water bill as a result.

  • Mean Old Mom Nov 27, 2007

    At least Raleigh has their priorities straight! They are more interested in naming the new convention center than naming a new water source! Get with the program Durham! Maybe you need to rename the DBAP instead of thinking about where your water will be coming from two months from now.

  • Angry Grrl Nov 27, 2007

    Ah, OK, I get you now. Into the "ignore" file you go. *plonk*

  • ANYWHO Nov 27, 2007


  • Angry Grrl Nov 27, 2007

    BWILLIS, what is your point, if you have one?

  • ANYWHO Nov 27, 2007


  • ANYWHO Nov 27, 2007


  • Deep Thought Nov 27, 2007

    I will always think that Durham incumbants waited to impose even voluntary restrictions to keep from making voters "unhappy" which might have lost them some votes.

    There was a story on CBS on Sunday morning about a group of kids that have started mowing the grass in a New Orleans park all on their own, they call themselves the Mow-Rons. Their t-shirts used to say "The Mow-Rons are in the city park, the Idiots are in City Hall"

    Durham City Hall is a building full of morons, idiots and people that care more about their image than people having enough water. And the citizens of Durham just keep right on re-electing them, guess all the idiots aren't just in City Hall.

  • WRAL is joe_dirt Nov 27, 2007

    This mayor is the greatest!