Local News

Rains Raise Raleigh, Durham Reservoirs

Posted March 5, 2008
Updated March 6, 2008

— The level of Falls Lake increased by more than a foot between Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and continued to rise Thursday, thanks to after a powerful storm system moved across North Carolina, officials said.

The system, which dropped 2 inches of rain at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and more than an inch across most of the Triangle, also filled one of Durham's reservoirs and dented the deficit in the other.

Falls Lake, which serves as Raleigh's primary reservoir, was about 6½ feet below normal Wednesday morning after hovering close to 8 feet below normal in recent weeks.

"Short of the lake filling up in one event, which is highly unlikely, this is a very good thing," said Ed Buchan, water conservation specialist for Raleigh's Public Utilities Department. "It's very positive. It's not going to recover the lake entirely, but it's a good trend."

Heavy rains in northern Durham and Orange counties and in Person County could continue to feed the headwaters of Falls Lake for the next day or so, Buchan said.

"The lake's still low," said Andy Gooch, owner of Rollingview Marina on the lake. "We've got a long ways to go, but this is a nice start."

Other factors could raise the lake level even higher:

  • The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake, on Monday cut the releases into the Neuse River by about 17 million gallons a day.
  • Tougher water restrictions imposed by Raleigh almost three weeks ago have reduced consumption by about 3 million gallons a day.
  • Cool weather limits the amount of water in the lake lost to evaporation.

WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said another system will move across North Carolina Friday and early Saturday and could dump more rain on the region.

Lake Michie, one of Durham's two reservoirs, was filled after Tuesday's rains, and water was flowing over the dam Wednesday, officials said. The Little River Reservoir remains almost 12 feet below normal, but its water levels had been down almost 20 feet in recent weeks.

Durham has enough drinking water to last 295 days – almost 10 months – between the two reservoirs and Teer Quarry, which officials had tapped in January to provide additional capacity.

“The inflow we received into our reservoirs is encouraging, but it certainly doesn’t mean we are out of the woods in regard to the ongoing drought,” Durham City Manager Patrick Baker said in a statement.

Levels at Jordan Lake and Kerr Lake, which also serve as reservoirs to various communities across the region, also increased by about a half-foot each after Tuesday night's storms, WRAL Meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

Lake Levels on March 6, 2008
LakeNormal LevelCurrent Level
Kerr Lake Dam in Va.300298.5
Jordan Lake216218.8
Falls Lake251.5245.8

45 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • seankelly15 Mar 5, 6:54 p.m.

    charlesboyer - You are nothing if not consistent; you have been claiming that there isn't a drought for some time. You have been claiming some governmental conspiracy to raise water rates. You have no support for either claim either statistically nor empirically.

  • tls71996 Mar 5, 6:51 p.m.

    OK, so people are who read and copy notes from alternative sources know how to manage water resources better than
    the people who are doing it now? Ever think there may be (many)other things these people know that you don't???

  • piperchuck Mar 5, 5:50 p.m.

    "But since you want to be precise: Raleigh gets 44.23 mean inches of rain per year. (Source, NOAA.)"

    Since you were citing NOAA info, here's what the NWS said about the situation in their Feb 22 Drought statement:

    RAINFALL FOR THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY THUS FAR HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY BELOW NORMAL...RANGING FROM 2 INCHES IN THE NORTHWESTERN HYDROLOGIC SERVICE AREA (HSA) TO AROUND 3 INCHES IN THE EAST. THIS HAS WORSENED THE OVERALL RAINFALL DEFICIT ACROSS CENTRAL NORTH CAROLINA AS MEASURED SINCE JANUARY 1, 2007. THE RALEIGH DURHAM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (RDU) HAS RECORDED 39.64 INCHES OF RAIN SINCE 1/1/2007... WHICH IS 10.25 INCHES BELOW NORMAL. THE PIEDMONT TRIAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (GSO) HAS RECORDED 34.57 INCHES OF RAIN SINCE 1/1/2007... WHICH IS 14.50 INCHES BELOW NORMAL. THE RAINFALL DEFICIT RANGES UP TO 24 INCHES IN THE SANDHILLS AND SOUTHERN COASTAL PLAIN.

    It's hard to see how you can conclude that we haven't been suffering from drought conditions, unless you like ignoring the data.

  • piperchuck Mar 5, 5:34 p.m.

    "I was speaking of this year, not some arbitrary number like 1/1/07. Go back to 1/1/06, and use that and tell us what you get."

    What's the point of speaking of a 2 month period when talking of a drought that we've been in for a year or so? Answer, absolutely none! The drought wasn't caused in a 2 month period, and it isn't going to end in a two month period, UNLESS we get a huge amount of rain. That hasn't happened. I didn't choose the 1/1/07 starting point, WRAL did.

    Even your numbers show that we are down a significant amount of rain. You can continue to pretend it doesn't exist, but this area has been in a severe drought. One only needed to look at the lakes you mentioned a few months ago to realize this. Many have rebounded, but due to many factors, Falls hasn't.

  • flashlight Mar 5, 4:43 p.m.

    "Almost every area lake except Michie and Falls are at normal pool levels. Even Jordan. Why is that? Because the drought is not quite as bad as it has been portrayed. The issue is management."

    Also, take a look at the size of their watersheds. Falls Lake has a relatively small area compared to others that drains into the lake.

  • nccommonsense Mar 5, 4:36 p.m.

    I am not within the Raleigh water jurisdiction, thank goodness but hey with an increase like that maybe they will leave the topic alone for another day or two. I have never lived somewhere where the crazy weather is such a topic of discussion, hint quiet all the building for awhile or good, someday this place will suck just like other big cities, all the greed and such.

  • charlesboyer Mar 5, 4:03 p.m.

    "You might want to check your numbers again."

    I was speaking of this year, not some arbitrary number like 1/1/07. Go back to 1/1/06, and use that and tell us what you get.

    Almost every area lake except Michie and Falls are at normal pool levels. Even Jordan. Why is that? Because the drought is not quite as bad as it has been portrayed. The issue is management.

    But since you want to be precise:
    Raleigh gets 44.23 mean inches of rain per year. (Source, NOAA.)
    17.81% of 2008 has gone by, because 31+29+5=65. 365/65=0.1781
    7.88 inches is 17.81% of 44.23 inches. 44.23+7.88=52.11 inches.
    We have received 44.23 inches (odd isn't) since 01/01/07.
    We are therefore 52.11-44.23=7.88 inches short.
    7.88 /52.11=15.12% short over the past 1.17 years.

    That's not much of a drought. And you can tell it when you visit Kerr Lake, Baden Lake, Jordan Lake, Lake Raleigh, Lake Benson, White Lake, Mattamuskeet, Lake Phelps and other regional lakes, because they are full or near full

  • RKBA Mar 5, 3:54 p.m.

    "Once we get back into the EL Nino from the La Nina Pacific ocean phase folks will be hollering about it being too wet."

    Bingo!

    Wanna bet Meeker finds a way to propose charging more for water unless we use more than a minimum amount?

    The first order of business of any government agency is to acquire wealth to empower itself.

  • wolfpackfan15 Mar 5, 3:25 p.m.

    some is better than none, hopefully this will be sufficient help for us. bring on some more rain.

  • Frank Downtown Mar 5, 3:25 p.m.

    Hmmm, the drought has not slowed down the issuance of new home permits!!!

More...