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Councilman: Durham's Water Rules a 'Joke'

Posted February 25, 2008
Updated February 26, 2008

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— One person since last September has been slapped with an interruption of service for violating Durham's water restrictions, prompting a City Council member to call local restrictions a failure.

The average daily demand for water in Durham is down about 10 percent from a year ago, although water use has been higher in recent weeks than it was in January.

"It's a joke," Councilman Eugene Brown said. "There's really no reason to call it whatever stage you want of water conservation if you don't enforce it."

Since Raleigh ratcheted up its water-use rules on Feb. 15, city officials have issued eight $1,000 fines to violators. Dozens of homeowners faced smaller fines last fall for breaking earlier regulations.

By contrast, Durham doesn't issue fines – restoring water service does entail a $400 fee – choosing to issue warnings and notices of violation. About 230 warnings for first offenses have been issued since September, and repeat offenders have been cited seven times.

Brown said Durham needs stricter penalties for violators. He has asked the city water department to come up with new enforcement guidelines within the next few weeks.

"The only way to do this is with fines, and it appears Raleigh is finally waking up and doing a much better job in that arena than we are," he said.

City officials said they don't have the manpower to police water violations. Two people are out on the streets to check for violations, officials said, noting a city employee usually has to catch someone in the act for a notice of violation to be issued.

"This should have been discussed last fall when we went to that stage," Brown said.

Durham resident Michael Hayes said he would like to see personal accountability and initiative among local residents.

"We can't wait for the government to take care of these issues. People are really going to have to step up and do something," said Hayes, who has installed four rain barrels and low-flow toilets at his house.


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  • Titus Pullo Feb 28, 2008

    "We all know industry has not cut back much"

    We do? Our plant has cut back substantially. Where are the facts to support your statement? Show us the data. Support your unsubstantiated claim.

  • chargernut69 Feb 26, 2008

    ...ignorant politicians bowing to the public pressure to not enforce the rules!

    My guess is all the affluent water users are ignoring the laws, thinking that they can just pay the fines and keep watering....

  • bill0 Feb 26, 2008

    Fines are a pretty poor way to reduce water use. It would take a full time force of officers patrolling neighborhoods around the clock. A much simpler plan is tiered pricing. Set a fixed rate for 100 gallons a day per household (that would make the average family of 4 meet the proposed 25 gpd statewide target.) After that, double the price for the next 10 gallons, triple the next 10 gallons etc. Use the additional revenue to build new water sources, pipelines, and conservation efforts.

  • busyb97 Feb 26, 2008

    Crayzee1 - I agree with you!

    Did anyone see the recent poll on one of the news channels (I forget which one), that showed 46% of the people they asked DO NOT do anything to conserve?? THat's ludicrous! A small percentage admitted they actually use more water. So that leaves 46% of us who are actually doing something to conserve. Sorry folks- but the government cannot be held completely responsible because we aren't doing OUR part. Yes, they can and should do alot of things differently, but we're adults. Let's act like it.

  • aceeli Feb 26, 2008

    I certainly don't think that Raleigh has done a better job just because we've fined a few people. Several weekends since the first restrictions went into effect, I have observed people in subdivisons around my home watering and washing cars like we have all the water in the world. But, just try to report them! You can't find anyone to take any action. I'm also curious about how Raleigh intends to enforce the new rule about reclaiming water used to flush plumbing in new construction, and what happened to Meeker's proposed higher impact fees. Nothing!!!

  • Crayzee1 Feb 26, 2008

    I read somewhere this is an 800 year drought. Has anyone read that fact anywhere?

  • independent-opinion Feb 26, 2008

    If total water usage is down 10% and the ratio of residential/industrial water is 50/50 than it stands that the people have cut their personal usage 20%. We all know industry has not cut back much. If you want to make real gains every sector ( residential, industrial, outdoor ) must be cut back. We eliminated outdoor watering. Residential conservation should be practiced by everyone, no argument here, but heavy fines levied on just half the remaining users will not solve the problem. Industrial conservation needs to be required and enforced as well. If they match the 20% cuts made by residential users it would add up to real savings without heavy handed treatment of this areas citizens by a government guilty of short sighted planning.

  • Reb3Flag Feb 26, 2008

    As long as developers have free reign to build wherever and whenever with the blessing of the city councils. Who won’t put a stop to it because it will be bad for the economy. But they want to go after the average citizen with tougher fines and restrictions. It is hard to take conserving seriously.

  • lilwil Feb 26, 2008

    All government officials should be recalled. Why aren't they on top of such issues before such issues get out of hand. All this raising money for this, attaching fines for that, well, what are they doing with the money. They are putting that money in their pocket. What happen to all the money for fixing the roads; they are in no better shape now than years ago, you still have pot holes, the white lines are no longer visible.

    Money is being wasted, things that should be fixed are not being repaired as they should, or inspected as they should, but yet they have these huge salaries, along with perks. Well, the citizens should not elect these officials any longer since they can't do their jobs. Rather it's the water, the roads, property tax, these officials are the joke. We, the citizens, need to be more adamant about who we select to these offices.

  • CestLaVie Feb 26, 2008

    Maybe ALL these city officials in both Raleigh and Durham should be recalled, since they don't seem to be able to find answers that fit the problem. People on these posts have LOTS of good answers. I personally think both city governments are too AFRAID to take steps & are being paid off by developers in some form or other. Bunch of weak idiots running all this!! If the shoe fits, tough!!