Local News

Raleigh's Biggest Water Customers Cutting Back

Posted February 5, 2008
Updated February 6, 2008

— The Raleigh City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to move to Stage 2 water restrictions on Feb. 15. The decision came as council members heard more about 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.

"It seems like everything that we do requires some sort of water,” WakeMed spokeswoman Debra Laughery said.

Starting with the toilets, WakeMed has cut back on water use.

"We've installed over 400 new low-flush handles where you go up if it's clear and down if it's not," Laughery said.

The hospital has also stopped watering its landscape and installed low-flow shower heads.

Less water is also flowing out of the showers at North Carolina State University. NCSU spokesman Keith Nichols said all residence halls were recently outfitted with low-flow shower heads.

"Since July 2007, we've saved about 57 million gallons of water," Nichols said.

NCSU is home to more than 30,000 students, staff and faculty.  With Raleigh's main water supply, Falls Lake, dwindling, the school has also launched a "water-saving challenge" with students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"We all need to do something to make sure we can, pardon the expression – weather the drought," Nichols said.

Some major users also expressed interest in tapping into a proposed city system to recycle treated wastewater for irrigation, air conditioning and other outdoor uses.

The city has refused to release just how much water commercial and industrial customers use, citing privacy. Collectively though, industrial customers, like Pepsi Bottling Ventures, use an average of 243 times what the average house uses per day.

Other companies that made Raleigh's major water-users list are: Ajinomoto, Alsco, Cargill, Covidien, Glaxo Smith Kline, City of Raleigh, State of North Carolina, Suntronics and Wake County.

The 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. For more on Stage 2 restrictions, click here.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • quebholder Feb 15, 2008

    Maybe we ALL need to NOT buy any Pepsi products, I know I won't.

  • HangOn Feb 11, 2008

    What about Pepsi/AQUAFINA, Raleigh's largest municipal customer?!
    Is bottled water more important than water for our citizens? Money talks! Get some common sense Mr. Meeker!
    "Raleigh leaders have opted to further punish homeowners and the green industry (nurseries, landscapers) businesses by outlawing hand watering. I keep waiting for these same leaders to require all restaurants to close or only use paper plates and cups. How about that long-awaited ban of drinking Aquifina water, which is pumped from Falls Lake? Yes, if the spigot to the Pepsi-Cola plant (Raleigh’s largest municipal customer) was shut off, the water savings would be tremendous. Instead, city leaders have chosen the easy path of punishing only the green industry...and now the power washing industry. All other industries are only asked to follow best management practices."

  • getrealpeople Feb 6, 2008

    "I can see Raleigh getting a permit to build a plant (or help Cary expand) and piping water to Raleigh. That would still be years down the road though and couldn't help anytime soon."
    The state would have to approve the inter-basin transfer. Not likely for anything over 2 MGD

  • Through a glass darkly Feb 6, 2008

    "Who's going to pay to have your landscape done again and with mature trees, grass, etc."

    Unless you were extremely foolish in your choice of trees, the trees won't be terribly affected. Grass, of course, is now toast. I put in some new trees and about 20 bushes in the spring. After about a month of water, I haven't added much and they are doing just fine. Mature shrubs and trees are doing OK so far. Some of my perennials died and others lived. I've split the live ones and eventually my entire garden will be drought tolerant.

    My veggies have suffered, but I have plans to use excess water and runoff next summer.

  • SaveEnergyMan Feb 6, 2008

    bendal, you're right. Jordan Lake was built as a water source for Cary/Apex, Durham, and Chapel Hill. I believe Cary is currently the only municipality with an intake. Cary can sell water to Durham or Raleigh, but they don't have the capacity to do anything but make a dent in the demand for those two cities. Chapel Hill maintains a right to draw water from Jordan, but doesn't as it has three water sources it uses and there's enough for the foreseeable future. Chapel Hill is also connected to the Durham and Hillsborough systems and they sell/buy water from each as needed.

    Jordan has a watershed area three times that of Falls and a much lower demand for the water. That's why Falls is so low and Jordan is nearly full. I can see Raleigh getting a permit to build a plant (or help Cary expand) and piping water to Raleigh. That would still be years down the road though and couldn't help anytime soon.

  • SaveEnergyMan Feb 6, 2008

    Desalinization plants?!! Do you know how much that would cost?? Pumping the water 125 miles (uphill) is incredibly expensive. Pumping 22 million gallons per day from the ocean to Raleigh requires about 7,500 hp -> about 6 MW of power. That would cost us $4 million per year in electrical costs alone. The pipe would cost on the order of $100 million and the installation at least that much more - and we haven't even built the plant. Add to that the fact that a desal plant is twice as expensive to operate and the economics are difficult to justify. We have to look locally for additional watershed capacity and we have to control the growth. Little River is a good step, as well as the Garner water plant under construction that will pull from Lake Benson. We have to live smarter and not throw money at wild ideas.

  • 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.

  • icy148 Feb 6, 2008

    Someone needs to check out some of the hotel showers. You could strip paint with the volume and velocity of water from those things! They're asking the hotels to ask the GUESTS to reuse towels and sheets, how about ask the HOTELS to install low-flow shower heads. I have one and it works BETTER than the original, regular-flow head.

  • wahaka63 Feb 6, 2008

    This is all fine and well. Prior to this date each and every one of these business should have already taken the steps to cut back on water. Yes, this will help but they are months behind in taking the steps. What a shame!

  • 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)