Local Politics

Raleigh looks to tap Falls Lake for more drinking water

Posted June 18, 2013

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— City officials fear Raleigh's demand for water will outstrip supply by 2040, so the City Council agreed Tuesday to pay for a study of Falls Lake to see if more drinking water can be pulled from the reservoir in the future.

The water in Falls Lake is dedicated to different purposes, and the $450,000 study by the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake, will determine if water allocated to the water quality storage pool can be safely shifted to the water supply storage pool.

Raleigh currently pulls about 50 million gallons a day from Falls Lake and another 11 million gallons from Lake Benson and Lake Wheeler. Officials say they need to plan for future growth in the region and the possibility of doubling the available water supply.

In addition to Raleigh, Falls Lake is the primary source of drinking water for Garner, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon.

"It takes so long to construct and permit (water facilities), so you plan in decades, not years," said Kenny Waldroup, Raleigh's assistant public utilities director.

The three options Raleigh is considering are pulling more water from Falls Lake, pulling water from below the Falls Lake dam and pulling water from the Neuse River at the Wake-Johnston county line.

Waldroup said officials need to examine the economic and environmental effects of each option and pick the one with the lowest overall impact.

Water faucet generic Raleigh plans for future water needs

As much as an extra 14 million gallons a day could be pumped from Falls Lake if the Corps of Engineers determines it's feasible, Waldroup said, which would meet demand through 2030. After that, he said, tapping into a reservoir on the Little River in eastern Wake County, which isn't yet built, could provide another 14 million gallons a day.

"If it’s successful, it will allow us to delay the Little River Reservoir project, but it will not allow us to end the project forever," he said.

The Little River Reservoir is projected to cost about $263 million to develop.

The Corps of Engineers study could take one to three years, but Waldroup said Raleigh officials hope to resolve the water issue in the next two years.

"We can implement the project very quickly" if the Falls Lake option is approved, he said.

The City Council also approved an increase to water and sewer rates on Tuesday to pay for upgrades to aging infrastructure. The increase adds $3.75 to the monthly bill of the average family using about 4,500 gallons per month.


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  • Rebelyell55 Jun 19, 2013

    Yet they're not worried at all about the gas companies coming to use that drinking water for their fracking solutions. So typical.

  • djofraleigh Jun 19, 2013

    "The main problem is that city slickers waste water everyday.-- COMMENT

    Is that the problem? Does Raleigh want infinite growth? Must it come at all costs? What is the ideal size/population of our geography? Is controlled growth possible using water/sewer/building permits? Yes it is.

  • djofraleigh Jun 19, 2013

    The county commissioners could control growth by use of water/sewer/building permits and let infrastructure keep pace with growth. Isn't controlled, planned growth a wise thing? So, do something about jails, schools, hospitals, polices, fire protection, and highways at the same time you provide the water and sewer. Raleigh always see-saws the bonds for clean & waste water treatment so that one is way over capacity than the other, making it easier to sell the bond bill to the voter.

    I'm for total package planning and being upfront with voters.

  • ripetomatoes Jun 19, 2013

    There are endangered species in the Little River, especially the non-invasive mussels.

    Studies have been completed on water flows at different sites downstream and it's not feasible to obstruct the waterflow and expect the survival of the ecosystem downstream.

    Wake county needs to search for alternatives instead of destroying such a beautiful ecosystem.

    There are serious repercussions downstream of reservoirs due to the changes in water volume allowed to flow during construction and drought.

    After both Hurricanes Fran and Floyd floodwaters, the Little River was cleared of storm-damaged trees by hand instead of with machinery upstream of I95 because of endangered species.

    This work was paid for by the Army Corps of Engineers and overseen by the USDA from beginning to end in late 1996 and again in 1999.

    If this reservoir is built, it will be with total disregard of the environment.

    This article makes it sound like the Little River reservoir is a "done deal".

    I hope it's not.

  • SaveEnergyMan Jun 19, 2013

    The issue with Falls is not depth, it's watershed size. You can't dredge it out and instantly get more water. It has to fall from the sky and flow into the lake. The Neuse has to have a minimum flow for communities and eco-systems downstream. When you have large rainfalls like last week, then maybe some additional water can be stored in a deeper lake, but this is not normal. A watershed can only support so many wasteful people.

  • ConservativeVoter Jun 19, 2013

    Next time there is a drought, they should dredge the bottom of the Falls Lake increasing the amount of water storage.

  • Six String Jun 19, 2013

    "Slowing the growth will force people to drive further from outlying areas thus helping smaller communities that may have water. They are called bedroom communities." Schooldoctor

    Yes, it would, but how do you slow growth? Do you tell people they cannot build on land they own? If you rezone an area, what does that look like -- no residential, no commercial business, no schools? I don't see any viable way to stop people from coming here to live, and I don't think we need to. The politicians need to be looking for new supplies and ways to do it.

  • kornfan2448 Jun 19, 2013

    "kornfan2448, how short must be your memory. Just a few years ago, the entire state practically was in severe drought."

    Memory is perfectly fine, clearly with my link, I was talking about the current rainfall amounts and how Obamacare forever keeps talking about how it never rains on every weather related story.

    As for grass being evil and needing constant watering. My grass grows fine and I have never watered it in the three years I have lived here nor have I ever applied fertilizer. Though when properly applied, fertilizer doesn't end up in the water supply.

  • Mon Account Jun 19, 2013

    "The main problem is that city slickers waste water everyday. Watering their lawns constantly to try and be better than the neighbor, using crr washes because they are to lazy to wash their own car. Car washes use 5 times more water than needed Etc. Etc."

    Car washes recycle their water.

    I have a drought-resistant landscape and don't use my irrigation system. Of the 20 or so houses I pass in my community each day, I've only seen one watering their lawn.

  • jcthai Jun 19, 2013

    kornfan2448, how short must be your memory. Just a few years ago, the entire state practically was in severe drought. We had water restrictions and Falls Lake from the air was a scary sight. Do you really think that this temporary glut of rainfall is going to continue forever? The way they are building and the population of Raleigh is exploding, we'll be using up all this surplus and be dying for water in no time.