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Extreme Measures Suggested for 'Stage 3' Water Limits

Posted February 12, 2008

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— Three days before Raleigh moves to the strictest water restrictions on the books, City Council members already are thinking of even more stringent measures they can impose ifthe drought continues.

Councilman Rodger Koopman has floated the idea of a building moratorium, saying city residents should use drinking water only for hygiene, safety and survival. But others said less extreme moves are more likely to be approved.

Last week, the City Council voted unanimously to begin Stage 2 restrictions this Friday. The rules ban outdoor watering and pressure-washing and force car washes that don't use city-certified water recycling systems to close.

The council is expected to meet next Tuesday with representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages Falls Lake, the city's primary reservoir, to discuss the corps' recent forecast that the lake could run dry by this summer.

Falls Lake is about 8½ feet below normal and has enough drinking water to last at least through the end of May, based on continued demand of about 40 million gallons a day, officials said Tuesday.

A report issued Tuesday indicated that the region has a 20 percent chance of escaping drought conditions in the coming months, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. The area would need 13 to 16 inches of rain by May or 22 to 26 inches by August to end the drought, he said.

A rainfall outlook by the National Weather Service predicted drier-than-normal conditions across the Southeast for the next three months, Fishel said.

Council members also plan to discuss next week various water-saving ideas that might be used as guidelines for potential "Stage 3" rules.

"I've already been on the phone with other councilors, and we're talking about going to Stage 3," Koopman said, adding that he's in favor of eliminating all uses of drinking water that aren't necessary for survival, even if it adversely affects some businesses.

"Should we stop construction on new development at least for a while while we figure out what's facing us?" he said. "I would rather overreact and, six months from now, explain to voters why we have too much water than to underreact and go to business as usual because I did not make the right decision.

"Maybe I will be a one-term council person, but if it means my 7-year-old son – he just turned 8 – has a future in this city because we preserve the quality of the city, then I will have done my job."

But Dale Crisp, the director of Raleigh's Public Utilities Department, urged patience before any extreme measures are adopted.

"My personal opinion is that it's premature to even talk about Stage 3 until we see what Stage 2 does," Crisp said.

The city might look to buy water from Cary, which has more than 300 days of available water in Jordan Lake, or closing some of the loopholes in the Stage 2 rules, he said. Such changes might include closing city-certified car washes or preventing developers from flushing water lines on new homes, he said.

Mayor Charles Meeker said the city might require businesses to install low-flow devices in restrooms. City officials have asked all residents and businesses to switch to such devices on faucets, shower heads and toilets by March 1.

"We're getting data from the weather service that says it's the worst drought in 800 years. Yet, we haven't run out of water; we have enough to last until the end of May," Crisp said. "If the weather service is right and we're experiencing such a bad event as they say we are, we've actually done pretty good managing through that."

26 Comments

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  • RaleighRob Feb 14, 2008

    I'd like to see a ban on those automatic toilet flushing devices. Even try to let the yellow go mellow on those things are impossible. If you even walk too close to them, they go off. Completely irresponsible, IMO.

  • Crystal Klear Feb 14, 2008

    I have been rationing my water for quite some time. I own a home in Raleigh and the city can read my meter and know how much water my home is using. My daughter and son-in-law live in an apartment community where the water is included in the rent. There is no incentive for apartment dwellers to keep tabs on their water use because there is no way to police their usage. They can still have 20 minute showers and let the water run when they bush their teeth. The same goes for the hotels and motels in the area, how are they being monitored? Just some of my thoughts I wanted to pass along.

  • VT1994Hokie Feb 13, 2008

    I have read about this and watched WRAL over the past several months now, and I think that too many are simply wasting this percious liquid. I can't see how people use more than 35 gallons a day. People still overwaterd their yards, flushed too many commodes, and thought that it was just going to go away.

    A long range plan was greatly needed, simply because too many people aren't really concerned with conservation anyway.

  • justjean Feb 13, 2008

    Ha, ha, ha, ha!! I've been filling up gallon jugs of water for three years now and storing them in my basement. I will be selling them, cheap!! Only $20 a gallon, get yours now, supplies are limited.

  • baileysmom3 Feb 13, 2008

    forget about the huge swimming pools why are we still using turbin generators which move by the force of water to create electricity these are major consumers of our water not just swimming pools. what about food processing plants, farmers, and factories?

  • Space Mountain Feb 13, 2008

    They should have gone to stage 2 a long time ago.

  • rushbot Feb 13, 2008

    I believe we are filling huge swimming pools so that people may engage in recreation while they are in them.

  • seeingthru Feb 13, 2008

    why are we still filling huge swimming pools?

  • rushbot Feb 13, 2008

    1. Immediate deportation of ever single person who moved to the Triangle subsequent to the unfortunate designation of "Number One Place to Live in the United States" by both Fortune and Money magazine back in 1993! Remember how great it was before then?

    2. Immediate commencement of a 5 year moratorium on any new construction anywhere in the Triangle! Think how valuable our houses will become! Oh yeah, I forgot, if we deport all the newcomers, who will buy our houses?

  • Deb1003 Feb 13, 2008

    I'd really like to see the weather data from 1208...would be interesting.

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