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Durham Eyes Surcharge to Boost Water Conservation

Posted December 17, 2007
Updated December 18, 2007

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— As crews began tapping an abandoned quarry Monday to deliver more water to the city's shrinking supply, one Durham official called for a 10 percent surcharge on local water bills to help pay for the costs of the ongoing drought.

City Councilman Eugene Brown said water is too cheap in Durham – the city charges about 1 cent for five gallons – and the added fee could help encourage conservation.

Durham has about 39 days of premium water left in its two main reservoirs, Lake Michie and the Little River Reservoir, officials said. The city has banned outdoor watering and has asked all customers to cut water consumption by 50 percent.

Despite heavy rain late Saturday, Lake Michie was 18 feet below full and the Little River Reservoir was down about 27 feet on Monday.

The city began work Monday to install pumps at Teer Quarry in north Durham to tap into the 600 million gallons of water it contains. The quarry should extend Durham's water supply by about 25 days, officials said, and quarry water should start flowing into the system after Christmas.

But the move comes at a hefty cost. Renting pumps and related equipment will cost about $25,000 a month. Construction costs to install them will be about $100,000, according to Donald Greeley, deputy director of Durham Water Management.

Brown said his proposed surcharge also would help offset the cost of obtaining extra water during the drought. In January, for example, Durham will double its intake from Jordan Lake, to more than 3.5 million gallons a day. The city was also considering buying water from Orange County.

"This will be part of our operating costs. So, the obvious question is, where is all this money going to come from?" Brown said, adding he expects the idea to be debated at the next council work session before it is placed on the agenda for a vote.

Meanwhile on Monday night, the City Council voted, 6-1, to extend water and sewer lines to a proposed subdivision near the Streets at Southpoint mall. Councilwoman Diane Cototti was the only one to vote against the extension.

The City Council had recently delayed a vote on the project when Mayor Bill Bell said existing residents should receive priority to the dwindling water supply.

City staff members reported on how the drought could impact development projects that are already in the city approval process.

Unlike Durham, the weekend rains added four to five days of drinking water to Falls Lake, Raleigh's primary reservoir.

Ed Buchan, a water conservation specialist with Raleigh's Department of Public Utilities, said the city has 96 days of water in the lake, meaning Stage 2 restrictions likely would not be adopted before next week.


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  • Deep Thought Dec 18, 2007

    CORRECTION: Story in Herald Sun archives for issue dated Nov 21, 2007, states "The city has lined up $4.9 million in financing for the bridge but is still $1.5 million short of being able to build it."

    Since Durham loses 13% of it's water to leaking pipes, I wonder, instead of building a bridge, just how many leaks they could find and fix for OVER $6,000,000.00----THAT'S 6 MILLION DOLLARS!!!!!!!!

    HELLO, is anybody in Durham Government or council paying any attention at all to what is going on???????

  • Deep Thought Dec 18, 2007

    newtodurham - the absent councilman was Cheek. Maybe we'd be better off if Brown had been absent more. If you look on the city's website and search on Teer Quarry, you can read that they city has been messing around with the idea of the quarry water for several years.

    Another really good idea the Durham city council had is pushing to allot $1.5 million dollars for a pedestrian bridge across I-40 in the Southpoint area for the American Tobacco Trail.

    ATTENTION DURHAM CITY COUNCIL: take care of what is NEEDED before you buy something you just want. Having that bridge will not help when we have zero days of water. Take a hint, operate the city budget like your personnel one,(pretend you don't have any credit cards and must operate on incoming money) if you can't afford it, don't buy it!!!! And if it is broken, DO FIX IT! Don't buy something (like a bridge) if you have no WATER!!!!!!

  • Dominion Dec 18, 2007

    Lots of complaining about our leadership...you know what that means, vote 'em out when those elections come around...look for some more intelligent leaders for the area.

  • lilwil Dec 18, 2007

    Once the drought is over, are they gonna lower the price of water?

    I wonder if government officials are doing all they can themselves to help conserve.

    Why do people think that raising pricing is a fix for everything. Someone must want a salary increase and this is a sure way to include it in. They know that once the drought is over, all that extra money has to be used, so why not increase their salary or boost some perk they are getting.

  • chargernut69 Dec 18, 2007

    How about starting to ration the water?... monitor water meters and fine those that are wasting water...

    Wonder what the geniuses at the city hall are going to do when all the water is gone?... C'mon Durham, get a clue!...

  • dohicky Dec 18, 2007

    Figured the counties and cities would start getting more money out of taxpayers because of the drought. Problem is the fee will continue even after the drought and costs are no longer incurred.

  • mike275132 Dec 18, 2007

    It all amounts to the corruption in Durham,
    They wait until you can see the bottom of the Resevoir then call for increased water fees and taxes.

    I moved out of Wake two years ago due to the mismanagement of the County and City Govt.
    I now live in Johnston co. where I have a well AND county water supply with a septic system for sewage. No restrictions for me thank you. My water utility bills are 60% lower now that I am out of Wake.

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Dec 18, 2007

    littlebopeep, you stole my thunder. It almost criminal how they allow the growth to continue and then penalize us for their poor planning... I, for one, am outraged at the direction we are headed...

  • littlebobeep Dec 18, 2007

    The city screws up its management of a critical resource and then penalizes those least able to pay for it by stuffing another 'fee' onto a service that you cannot do without and have no viable alternative to.
    Raleigh is the same, they screw up, we pay !

  • newtodurham Dec 18, 2007

    Wasn't Eugene Brown, Durham City Council member, on the news last week for missing most of the sessions and admitting to an alcohol problem?!?!?! He doesn't need water when he's on the sauce I guess.

    I also assume that the sauce helped him come up with this idiotic plan to bleed more money from the tax paying citizens of Durham. How about an incentive program for residents that use less water?