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Heat wave impacting Raleigh's water supply

Posted June 5, 2008
Updated October 21, 2011

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— As the temperature rises, so does the need for water. Customers on the Raleigh water system are increasing their consumption, according to Ed Buchan, a water conservation specialist with the city's Public Utilities Department.

“Whenever we have 90-plus (degree) days, up to 100 (degrees), our water use spikes accordingly,” Buchan said.

Customers used 51 million gallons of water on Tuesday, when the high temperature was 88 degrees. On Wednesday, temperatures rose to 94 degrees, and usage increased to 58.2 million gallons.

Even so, usage is still down from this time last year, when the daily average was 60 million gallons.

“There's not any prediction that says this year isn't going to be as bad as last year, but it certainly is a rather ominous start,” Buchan said.

Water supply problems aren’t just from usage. Although Falls Lake, Raleigh's primary reservoir, looks full, the ground water level that people don't see and that flows into the reservoir during the months without rain is still rather low.

WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said that at Falls Lake, as the sun heats the soil, it draws out a lot of moisture.

“The fear is (that) if we head into another extended hot, dry period, all of a sudden those reservoirs could start dropping very quickly,” Fishel said.

A long dry, hot spell could deplete about 40 million to 50 million gallons of water a day from Falls Lake, which is the amount of water Raleigh customers consume on any given day.

“We're losing this water,” Raleigh City Councilman Rodger Koopman said.

Koopman said the current dry conditions support the city's decision to switch to tiered water rates.

“Our current model states that water is plentiful and cheap. That's clearly no longer working for us,” he added.

Buchan said that, given the current hot spell, increasing use comes as no surprise, even though homeowners are restricted to watering lawns only two days per week.

On the upside, Lake Benson, which is connected to Lake Wheeler, is coming online in the next year and a half, Koopman said. That will give the city an additional 20 million gallons of water a day.

33 Comments

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  • SheriffTruman Jun 6, 2008

    Well, JuanGrande, we don't need restrictions now. This is all just trumped up from nothing as more water use in the Summer is totally normal. If it does not rain again for a few months, then we can talk.

  • JuanGrande v3.0 Jun 6, 2008

    Wasn't everyone screaming that we didn't need water restrictions anymore about a month ago?

  • elmer Jun 6, 2008

    i still say that a good cool glass of water on a hot day looks better than a green lawn. Please don't wait for the governor to tell everone to conserve because it was about gone befor he found out about it. we should be conserving no matter how much your officials call for rate increases

  • ProudConservative2 Jun 6, 2008

    Here we go again. Now WRAL can move the drought info back to the front page and have all the stories hit you right away. YAWN!!!!

  • fkhaywood Jun 6, 2008

    More people equals more water used! It doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure that out. I haven't washed a vehicle in years, I dont't water my grass or plants, I don't flush every time we use the bathroom, we don't shower very day, we don't wash clothes with a half empty tub, we are retired, and I don't have any plumbing leaks; and we still use about 60 gallons/day/person. I sure am glad that I don't live in Wake Cpunty or the City of Raleigh, try Harnett County. Falls Lake can only supply Raleigh and Wake County's water needs with the present population under ideal conditions. The enormous growth of the area has made sure of that. Falls Lake was built in the 1970's and was designed to handle Raleigh's forseeable growth for 25 years, and due to an egineering miscalculation is not as deep as was originally planned, and the area's growth has exceeded the planned projections. Maybe you do need a rocket scientist to understand the numbers!

  • DurhamDude Jun 6, 2008

    I don't water my lawn, but I do water my plants and will continue to do so as long as we don't get rain. Raise water rates if necessary, but put that money toward increasing supply and sharing the areas existing major water supplies among the triangle area.

  • room Jun 6, 2008

    Wasn't there a problem last year? Must not have been since none of the elected in Raleigh did anything to work towards a long term solution. This must be a new problem. I must assume the building trend has continued and the lake hasn't gotten any bigger and the only answer from the elected is to raise water rates and tell people to quit using water. Typical politicians.. Wait, though, just as soon as its time for them to run again, they will have all kinds of solutions.. Once they are reelected, they will soon get back in the grind and continue to do nothing.

  • Jeepguy Jun 6, 2008

    It is not just watering lawns and plants. People are drinking more water when it is hot.

  • tcwife Jun 6, 2008

    This should be a sign not only for Raleigh but all communities that water conservation and restrictions should start now so that maybe some of what happened last year can be avoided or at least take longer to occur.

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Jun 6, 2008

    Oh surprise surprise. Hot weather. Water usage is going up. People are watering their lawns. Oh surprise surprise. Raleigh is doing nothing. Oh surprise surprise.

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