Local News

Meeker: Water 'Budget' Needed to Get Through Drought

Posted February 11, 2008

— Mayor Charles Meeker on Monday called for establishing an overall "budget" for local water use and said the City Council would take steps in the coming weeks to ensure the city stays within it.

In his annual State of the City address, Meeker also said the city needs to look at public transportation, energy-efficient lighting and public art.

Meeker noted that the drought gripping the state is in its 10th month – about twice as long as previous droughts. Yet, he said, it's difficult to tell how much response is needed locally to address the situation adequately.

"It's sort of like being in the second or third quarter of a basketball game ... but you don't know how many points it's going to take to win," he said. "We know we need to limit personal consumption. We know we need to get low-flow devices on. We know we need to put the Stage 2 restrictions in place. But we don't know if that's going to be enough."

The City Council last week voted to implement Stage 2 water restrictions this Friday, banning outdoor watering and pressure-washing and closing car washes that don't use a city-certified system to recycle their water. The council previously asked local residents to install low-flow devices on shower heads and faucets and to limit daily water use to 35 gallons per person.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages Falls Lake, issued a forecast last week that suggested the lake, which is Raleigh's primary source of drinking water, would run dry this summer. The forecast was based on current consumption rates and predictions of continued dry weather.

Meeker said he plans to set up a meeting with the City Council and Corps of Engineers managers to review the forecast and devise a plan to ensure the lake doesn't run dry.

"Once we have a water budget and we know how much water we can use – whether it be 40 million gallons a day, 38 million gallons a day, 35 million gallons a day or some other figure – I will ask the council to take steps to get us on that budget so we will have water this summer and this fall," he said.

Average daily usage has hovered around the 40 million-gallon mark in recent weeks.

He praised the effort many Raleigh residents have made to cut their water consumption. He said City Council members Nancy McFarlane and Mary Ann Baldwin would lead a water conservation council to make sure major water users and businesses also reduce their water use.

"We're getting a very good response, but we just need to be sure that our whole community is participating," he said. “We will get through this. It's a challenge for our community, but we're a resourceful group and we'll get it done."

WakeUP Wake County, a citizens group that advocates managed growth, said action on the dwindling water supply is overdue and should be widespread.

"We need to be having much stronger water conservation measures (and) tiered water-rate structures, particularly on the large users. We probably should be looking at a moratorium on new construction until this drought is over," said Karen Rindge, WakeUP chairwoman.

In other issues, Meeker said the city needs to look at building more sidewalks and bike lanes and to follow Charlotte's lead in building a mass transit system for the Triangle.

"As we become more urban, we simply need to do a better job with transportation," he said. "(Charlotte is) way ahead of us in mass transit. Their model is a very good model for us."

He said he also would like the City Council to authorize a lighting study on how to transition more than 30,000 street lights around Raleigh to light-emitting diodes, which are more energy efficient than the incandescent bulbs now used. He said the effort should highlight focal points around the city, such as downtown and the North Hills and Crabtree Valley areas.

Meeker also called for the creation of an arts foundation to purchase public art for various locations around Raleigh. The foundation would be overseen by the city Arts Commission and could combine about $100,000 in city funding with private support, he said.

"It would really get some public art going ahead, not just in the central city – although some of it could be here – but in parks and public spaces throughout our city," he said.


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  • john60 Feb 12, 2008

    If your family is living on a financial budget, do you continue to rack up debt you can't pay for? Certainly not, or you'll quickly find yourself in over your head with bills you can't pay.

    However, Meeker's call for a "water budget" fails to take into account that as of right this minute, there is not enough water in Falls Lake to meet the demand, yet more and MORE water users are being added every week. That's a "budget" that is guaranteed to fail.

    Raleigh needs to stop adding new water users and start a frantic (and probably very, very expensive) search for new sources of water, both for the short and long term. I doubt they'll do either though until you can walk across most of Falls Lake.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 11, 2008

    One good thing about this current water situation is that Meeker and his Socialist cronies won't get re-elected in 2009 after they let Raleigh dry up in July without water.

    Time for Fetzer to be elected Mayor of Raleigh again. Under Fetzer we always had enough water to flush, shower, drink, and wash our clothes.

    After 7 years of Meeker we will be out of water in August. Wait to go Meeker.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 11, 2008

    Instead of investing money to fix infrastructure and expand our water supplies, the city has pumped money into Meeker's Folly known as the Convention Center and the attached hotel.

    The city spent a million dollars to establish a 5 star restaurant in downtown Raleigh instead of investing in infrastructure and expanding our water supplies.

    The water pipes are in such bad shape in Raleigh that they estimate 15% of the water used in Raleigh is wasted through leaks in the water pipes. Seems that fixing this large leak would have been the biggest priority with this ongoing drought.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 11, 2008

    With Sev 2 water restrictions, why is the Pepsi bottling plant in Raleigh still allowed to bottle Aquafina from water in the Falls Lake and send it elsewhere.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 11, 2008

    We are not in a drought.

    Lakes Jordan, Kerr, and Gaston are near full pool.

    The grass, shrubs, and trees are still green and lush. If were in a severe drought, vegetation would have already dried up and died.

    The problem with Falls lake is that the City of Raleigh and the Corps of Engineers has oversold the capacity of the lake. They are using the drought story to cover their mismanagement of the lake through their negligence.

    If we were in a true drought, Jordan, Kerr, and Gaston would down similarly to the Falls lake. Instead Jordan, Kerr, and Gaston are near full pool.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 11, 2008

    Meeker and the City Manager refused to impose strict SEV 2 water usage rules last July and August when the National Weather Service said that we were going to have a dry fall, winter, and spring.

    Meeker and the City Manager were waiting for the Tropical Storm that never happened.

  • 3forme Feb 11, 2008

    you guys in orange county are going to start more conservation now that sen edwards is back at the mansion...wonder how much water a 26,000 sq ft house can use?

  • nursevb8 Feb 11, 2008

    I agree. Stop the growth of illegals but at the same time, find out why Raleigh has had so many pipes break this year. Thousands of gallons of water has been wasted because of these breaks. Now, Raleigh citizens have to pay the price. Some other solution needs to be found. I refuse to not shower daily or wear dirty clothes. I don't have city water but still try to conserve just because Heater Utilities is rediculously expensive.

  • bcc Feb 11, 2008

    "It's funny how everyone says that Meeker and his folks should have predicted this and done something - because I think most of you would have skewered him three years ago if he DID try to do something. You'd all say that he's blowing smoke, or just wants to spend money on a problem that doesn't exist. I'm not defending Meeker, but remember that."

    This is a good point. I can't imagine the outrage from all the experts on these boards had Meeker proposed water restrictions before the drought. They would have flipped out, saying they should be able to use whatever they want.

  • ah3000bj8 Feb 11, 2008

    A the old saying goes, we need to throw all of those bums out ! Then perhaps, we could elect a hand full of leaders that have at least one clue among them !