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Small Business Feeling Biggest Pinch From Water Limits

Posted February 15, 2008

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— Landscapers, car wash operators and other small-business owners had to adjust their processes or face going out of business Friday when Raleigh imposed more stringent water-use rules.

"I think it's going to hit everybody in the industry. We've got customers in every part of Wake County," said Keith Ramsey, who owns a nursery in Cary.

The Stage 2 water regulations that went into effect Friday in Raleigh and six area towns on the municipal water system ban outdoor watering and pressure-washing and require car washes to recycle water to remain open.

Officials said the tougher rules should save 2 million to 5 million gallons a day.

But Ramsey and other small-business owners said they want to know why Raleigh didn't crack down on large water users as much.

"We could go to Pepsi or any of the other major water users and demand they reduce water use and see a much much bigger savings," he said.

Pepsi Bottling Ventures is one of the top water consumers in Raleigh, accounting for almost 1 percent of the daily demand on the municipal system. The company said it has changed its processes and started reusing water to cut water consumption by 2 percent since 2005 while expanding production.

"I honestly have no idea why we chose certain industries to target versus others," Raleigh City Councilman Philip Isley said. "We all try to do our best with the information that's provided ... We ask our city manager and director of public utilities for enough information to allow us to vote."

Ed Buchan, water conservation specialist with Raleigh's Public Utilities Department, said the Stage 2 restrictions focus on targets where violations are easy to spot and enforce.

"(The rules are) there to obviously deliver a message to folks – a powerful message, hopefully," Buchan said.

The City Council is expected to begin devising even tougher "Stage 3" rules next week, and Buchan said all options, including more cutbacks by industrial users, would be considered.


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