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N.C. to allow rainwater harvesting

Posted July 10, 2009

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— Worry over drought conditions are once again on the radar. While Falls Lake is at 250.9 feet, which is 7 inches below full, Raleigh's main water source remains a concern.

“We got some good news and bad news. It's going to be dry for a while, but the good news is the winter time promises to be very wet,” said Ed Buchan, an environmental coordinator with the city's Public Utilities Department.

Falls Lake reached a record deficit last year. In response, water-conservation measures were put into place.

The state is not currently under extreme drought conditions, but that could change if dryer conditions linger.

"If the overall pattern in the atmosphere holds, it will continue to favor rainfall being below normal," WRAL's Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

To help ease the strain on state waterways, Gov. Bev Perdue recently signed a bill into law that allows residents to save and reuse rain water.

The use of rainwater in homes could conserve millions of gallons of water and cut water bills.

Some companies, like Cary-based FreeRain, are taking advantage of the reuse rain water push. The company installs storage systems, with drains and filters, which can harvest rainwater for indoor non-potable uses.

“You can use that water for flushing toilets, irrigation, lawns, washing the dog, washing the car. Right now, 50 percent of the water that we use is for non-potable purposes and a lot of that is flushed down the toilet,” said Kevin Cochran, with FreeRain.

Rex Bost, of Bost Custom Homes, is building a Chatham County house with a FreeRain system. He says with the Triangle growing, conserving water is the logical thing to do, regardless of rainfall amounts.

“The Triangle is going to need another 117 million gallons a day in 15 years. We don't have those (natural) resources,” Bost said.

Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, says he also wants to make it easier for people to save and reuse rain water. He is in support of water-reuse legislation.

“Rain water is essentially a free resource. All over the country, except in the West, we don't look at it that way. It's time we start changing the way we look at it,” Alexander said.

Installing the FreeRain system can range anywhere from $6,000 to 15,000 depending on the size of your home and the amount of water you want to save.

Rain barrels are another low-cost option for harvesting rain water.