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Landscapers Cry Foul as Raleigh Tightens Taps

Posted February 5, 2008

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— More than 200 people from the landscaping industry protested Tuesday as the City Council voted unanimously to move to Stage 2 water restrictions on Feb. 15.

Carrying "Save Our Jobs" signs, the members of the landscaping industry said the tougher rules on water use would harm their businesses.

"We're already putting layoff's on the employees. We're looking at closing the doors," landscaper William Hanner said.

"I grow wholesale for landscapers. (The new rules) could shut us down, totally shut us down," nursery owner Phil Campbell said.

Councilman Phillip Isley acknowledged the economic impact as he joined his colleagues in voting for the Stage 2 restrictions.

"We're putting people out of business. People are losing jobs," Isley said, urging the council to set a date when the city will be able to relax water regulations.

The increased restrictions ban all outdoor watering and pressure-washing. An estimated 60 percent of car washes in Raleigh will have to close because they don't meet standards for recycling water, and swimming pools that aren't currently filled will remain empty.

Raleigh water customers in Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon also will have to comply with the new rules.

"You're kind of going to have to let the landscape fend for itself," said Ed Buchan, a water conservation specialist for Raleigh's Public Utilities Department.

The city banned all sprinkling in October, which Buchan said helped cut daily water demand by about a third. The Stage 2 restrictions aren't expected to produce nearly those results, which prompted criticism from the landscapers at the City Council meeting.

"It would be fine if there were cutbacks in other industries, but to come after the 'green industry' and power-washing is (saving) minimum water," farmer Doug Kowalczyk said.

"Mandatory restrictions on our industry when everyone else is voluntary for major industrial users, universities and other large consumers doesn't seem like an equitable way to take care of the situation," nursery employee Mike Blanton said.

Stage 2 restrictions would have automatically come into effect if Raleigh's water supply dipped to 90 days, but with the supply in Falls Lake predicted to last until mid-May, Mayor Charles Meeker said he decided to push for tighter restrictions sooner.

"The very basic way of looking at it is (that) every gallon we save is a gallon we have when it's hot," Meeker said. "One can certainly look back and say we should have done this a month or two or three or four ago, and you may be right. You may not be, but I think it's time to do it now, regardless."

Home builders received an exemption from the Stage 2 rules, which would have prevented them from flushing new water lines to test for bacteria. The City Council voted to allow them to continue flushing lines, as long as they capture the water so it can be retreated and used again.

Meeker pushed for the changes, even while acknowledging the economic cost might prove to be unpopular.

"This is not only going to inconvenience some people; it's going to affect them economically," he said.

Stage 2 restrictions will also:

  • require that leaks be repaired within 24 hours of notice from the city
  • ban use of water-cooled air conditioners that do not recycle water
  • order businesses to review their water usage and implement conservation plans appropriate for their industries
  • require that innkeepers ask guests to use their towels and linens more than once before laundering
  • prohibit restaurants from serving water, except by request
  • ban all non-essential use of water for commercial or public use

Buchan said even tougher restrictions might be in the works. Potential Stage 3 rules might include asking restaurants to use disposable plates and seeking more cutbacks from businesses.

Also Tuesday, City Council members received an update on the conservation efforts of major water users.

North Carolina State University; city, county and state government offices and several businesses have eliminated outdoor irrigation, stopped washing vehicles, cut back hours of operation, plugged leaks and adjusted processes to save millions of gallons of water each week, officials said. Some of the major users also expressed interest in tapping into a proposed city system to recycle treated wastewater for irrigation, air conditioning and other outdoor uses.


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  • SheriffTruman Feb 6, 2008

    As far as being told, "growth will pay for itself". That was a lie at the current rates. The problem is that so many people in this area whine every time they have to pay anything at all. The taxes in this area are generally lower than many other areas, yet all I ever hear is how we are wasting tax money. It is a balancing act. I am very conservative regarding federal taxes and spending, but feel that the closer to home the taxes are, the more we should be willing to pay as the effect on our lives is much greater.

    Of course, any time someone proposes raising taxes, the chorus starts up. You cannot have something for nothing and this area will always remain Podunk until we pull our heads out of our collective rear ends.

  • john60 Feb 6, 2008

    Ghostwriter, we've already had brownouts in the past due to very hot summers demanding more electricity than the power grid could provide. Just because there are 5 power plants in NC doesn't mean there's a surplus of electricity for desalination plants. They can't be built quickly; just getting an environmental study completed would take years, and only after that's done could construction begin.

  • ghostwriter Feb 6, 2008

    i like i said we to get the state to build at least 3 desalination plants here in NC, that will produce 75 millions gallons of water per day. The state knew of the problem years ago, the city knew too, and they should had done something about it, but they failed, till the cities took action least 6 months ago, but having 3 desalination plants will slove the problem in the near future if the start building them now, but the whole state should go under restrictions, including the prisons in NC, hint hint. like what happen in Raleigh, with the people whom in business doing lawns and car washes, are likly to go out of business, and might loose their homes, and will whom to blame for that the city of Raleigh. Well, i think these people whom loose their business because of raleigh, should file bankruptcy and file sue against the city for lost of income and for failing to handle in this matter in the past.

  • JuanGrande v3.0 Feb 6, 2008

    Mungo, the entire Southeast has been in a drought. The watersheds north of us are hurting as much as we are. I don't understand why Stage 2 restrictions haven't already been enacted. Sorry but water is a finite resource, if it isn't coming out of the sky then we can't get any more of it.

    Desalination plants would be nice, just rig one to a nuke plant. Everyone screams about nuke power but it works, its safe, and doesn't use oil or coal. We have hundreds of nuclear power plants around the world plus hundreds more in the military (submarines, aircraft carriers) that people forget about. Build them, use them, and tick off the "greens" while we do it.

  • ghostwriter Feb 6, 2008

    Here in NC if i not mistaken already has approx 5 power plants own by 3 different power companies here in NC. Here are the names of them Brunswick Steam Electric Plant: Unit 1 (821 Mega Watts) and Unit 2 (821 Mega Watts), Wm. B. McGuire Nuclear Sta.: Unit 1 (1100 Mega Watts) and Unit 2 (1100 Mega Watts), and Shearon Harris Plant: Unit 1 (900 Mega Watts)

  • john60 Feb 6, 2008

    The amount of water released by the Corps through Falls Dam is mandated by law; to change it requires approval by the Atlanta office of the Corps, and as WTVD pointed out last night, reducing the amount of fresh water released increases the amount of treated sewage water the cities downstream of Raleigh end up using for THEIR drinking water.

    BTW, desalination plants use lots of electricity, and last I looked NC doesn't have a surplus of power generating plants. Who wants the next coal (or nuclear) plant being built next door to them?

  • dm919 Feb 6, 2008

    "With all the cuts mostly affecting the Landscaping business and it's employees,maybe some Illegals will go home."

    And thanks to the DMV, it will be a very long walk home =)

  • ghostwriter Feb 6, 2008

    in Addition; The 3 desaltation facility can produce flesh water and also salt. What do we really need when the snow hits the south. We need salt, so instead of spending money to buy salt in other states, we have our own desaltation plants that procedures salt and flesh water here in north carolina. Yes, alot of engery is required to mainstain such facility, but we do have a major power planet here in NC.

  • ghostwriter Feb 6, 2008

    What the state of north carolina needs to do is build at least 3 Desalination facility along the coast line here in North Carolina to route water to major cities in North Carolina. The Ocean Water needs to be desalinated in order to be converted to fresh water suitable for animal consumption or irrigation and for human consumption. Sometimes the process produces table salt as a by-product. Most of the modern interest in desalination is focused on developing cost-effective ways of providing fresh water for human use in regions where the availability of water is limited. The largest desalination plant in the United States is the one at Tampa Bay, Florida, which began desalinizing 25 million gallons of water per day in December 2007. If the state do build 3 desalation facility it will serve north carolina cities with approx 75 million gallons of water per day. If people worrie about gobal warming, well here one way to start using ocean water, when the ice start melting in the artic.

  • veyor Feb 6, 2008

    One of the biggest problems with the lake is that the Corps of Engineers is letting 47% of the water through the dam to supply cities downstream from Falls. Last night on the news it was reported that they are considering lowering that amount by half. That will tremendously improve the lake level. (But by then the inaction damage will have been already done).