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Sprinklers, Washing Cars No Longer Banned

Posted April 7, 2008

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— City officials formally declared an end to Stage 2 water restrictions Monday morning, allowing residents on the municipal water system to once again hook up their sprinklers once a week and pull a hose and bucket out to wash their cars.

The loosened restrictions also brought breathing room for "green" industries – such as nurseries and street cleaners – that depend on water.

"I'm glad that they (Raleigh city leaders) did what they said they were going to do," said Michael Hoskins, owner of Groundscapes of N.C., which lost more than half of its business and staff during the drought. "They were going to lift restrictions and they did, as soon as the first business day after it happened. We are happy about that."

Six rainy days last week helped fill Falls Lake, the city's primary reservoir, for the first time in 11 months. The lake topped the 251.5-foot level at which it is considered full on Sunday evening.

The last time Falls Lake was above its full level was last May, according to records of the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake. As recently as a month ago, the lake was nearly 8 feet below normal.

The prolonged drought and the dried-up lake prompted city officials to enact Stage 2 restrictions on Feb. 15, prohibiting the use of city water for outdoor irrigation and pressure washing. Car washes that weren't certified by the city also were forced to shut down.

Returning to Stage 1 rules allows residents with odd-number addresses to water their lawns on Tuesdays, while those with even-number addresses can use their sprinklers on Wednesdays. People can use a hand-held hose for watering on those days, as well as on Saturdays for odd-number addresses and Sundays for even-number addresses.

"I'm happy, because I know that what I've hoped for and the faith that I've had has once again come through," said Phil Campbell, who owns a local nursery.

Gary Adcock said his business, Clean Streets, saw a 75 percent drop in profit after he had to pay for his tankers to fill up at waste-water treatment plants.

"It's been bad," Adcock said. "We've just making ends meet, thankful that were are still in business."

Automatic sprinkler systems can be operated only between midnight and 10 a.m. on the specified day, while hand-held hoses and hose-end sprinklers can be used from 6 to 10 a.m. and 6 to 10 p.m.

People can wash their cars at home and power-wash their homes, driveways and sidewalks only on weekends.

Violators of the new rules face a $200 fine, and a $1,000 fine for a second offense.

In lifting the Stage 2 restrictions, Mayor Charles Meeker thanked residents for their conservation efforts in recent months.

"Our community was facing a very challenging situation," Meeker said. "We have been fortunate. The drought of 2007-2008 was unprecedented, but we have been able to get through it."

But the mayor warned people to be prepared for Stage 1 restrictions to become the norm all year long.

"During the recent drought, we've had the toughest restrictions in the state, and looking forward, we may stay in that position," he said. "The point here is to focus on water conservation – to treat water as a really important resource – not only when the lake is full, but to be in good position in dry spells.

"(A drought) will likely happen again. I can't tell you if it will be this summer or in five years."

State Climatologist Ryan Boyles said the current drought is ongoing, noting lake levels aren't a good standard to measure the water crisis.

"When you start looking under the surface, the base flow, the rivers, the water table is still well below where it should be for this time of year," Boyles said.

Since April 1, the National Weather Service has recorded 1.31 inches of rain at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and 3.64 inches in Fayetteville.

But Boyles said groundwater recharges slower than area lakes, so it will take several weeks – or even months – before groundwater levels are back to normal. Until then, a lengthy dry spell could quickly drain Falls Lake again, he said.

"If your base water is low, any type of short-term dryness – a few weeks to a month – can dramatically deplete your reservoirs," he said.

Meeker said the city is taking steps to ensure an adequate water supply through the summer, such as asking the Army Corps of Engineers to raise the level at which the lake is considered full by 2 feet, to 253.5 feet. Such a move would add millions of gallons of capacity to the lake.

"We are planning as though we're going to have more dry weather this spring and summer," Meeker said.

Wake County commissioners on Monday reviewed a proposal to build a dam and reservoir on the Little River in the eastern part of the county to boost area water supplies.

Johnston County officials also voted Monday to implement an alternate-day system for outdoor watering. People with odd-number addresses will be allowed to water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while those with even-number addresses can water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

The Orange Water and Sewer Authority also plans to discuss its water restrictions this week. Its rules banning outdoor watering went into effect March 1, but its three lakes are about 69 percent filled, up from 59 percent a week ago.

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  • getrealpeople Apr 8, 2008

    The discharge rate for Falls lake went from 30 cfs Saturday to 491 now. 19MGD to about 313 MGD. Falls Lake is for flood control #1 water supply #2. the bad part is they want to maintain 55mph spped limit or 251.5 msl. The lake last may 18th was about 253.5 or 2' above normal then dry weather (not growth) proceeded to drop to 241.52 on Christmas Day.
    if it was growth why did it fill back up! No one left, we had above normal rainfall and discharge at 19 MGD kept as much as possible.

  • SheriffTruman Apr 8, 2008

    Actually, the Corp of Engineers reduced the water outflow, but not to a level that matched the inflow, we were still sending more water out than in, just not by as much.

    It seems to me that more closely tying the outflows to inflow is sound engineering and water management practive at all times and the guide curve controls should be adjusted to account for that. Why should Raleigh be the only place to get the hardship of any reduced rain when areas downstream are still running like ther eis nothing wrong. If Falls lake was not there, the Neuse would have been a trickle.

    Also, now that Falls is too high, they are releasing water at much higer rates to get it down to the 251.5 level so I imagine 17 million gallons is a fraction of what is going downstream right now.

  • enderby Apr 7, 2008

    050462 - sad comments man.

  • bobdillin123789 Apr 7, 2008

    great, now i can water my dirt

  • LL4U Apr 7, 2008

    AND 050462 Don't talk about farmers with your mouth full - you do know where food comes from don't you????

  • LL4U Apr 7, 2008

    050462 you really have an attitude problem - and it's nasty and arrogrant. You must be one of those 50,000 that moved DOWN here that enjoys being part of the problem instead of providing assistance for the solution.

  • ah3000bj8 Apr 7, 2008

    Raleighgator is right on the money. The reason that the lake is full now is that they reduced the outflow to 50 % about a month ago to match the 50 % inflow that we were having since this mess started last Year. Prior to that, the ACOE was maintaining the Neuse river downstream of Raleigh at a 100 % level out of Falls Lake. That was a reduction of 17 million gallons a day. All of the " feel good " conservation efforts taken by the downtown crowd didn't come close to saving that much. The net result was that the big " wasters " of our reserve water supply was the Army Core of Engineers. Another big waste is those that occupy the city council building downtown for not telling the public the real situation about our water. But then they couldn't dream up more ways to charge us more for our water, and gain more power over our lives. Did you all know they plan to spend 28 million dollars on an indoor swimming pool on pool road ? Remember this at election time ! I want my garbage disposal !!

  • durham_nc Apr 7, 2008

    Does anyone know if we are still in a drought?

    If so, I'd like to know exactly what defines the drought.
    It appears to me that all the lakes are full, the ground is saturated, and 90 day rainfall at RDU is at a normal level. (with 30 day rainfall is above average)

    Maybe there are other factors? Maybe related to farming or under ground water tables? Would be nice to know how to
    tell we have exited the drought.

    Lately this drought has been rough... just waiting for a day dry enough when I can get out and cut the grass. :)

  • durham_nc Apr 7, 2008

    I think Raleigh is smart to allow residents to catch up on
    things around the home like cleaning the mildew off the siding
    or staining the decks.
    When the lakes are running over, it is time to catch up on
    things you've been holding off on for the drought effort.

    I wish Durham would do the same.

  • bobbyj Apr 7, 2008

    the drought was media driven and there was never a real drought just too many users and not enough storage.

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