Local Politics

Lawmakers Eye Regulating Well Users

Posted February 26, 2008 5:19 p.m. EST
Updated February 26, 2008 6:47 p.m. EST

— State lawmakers are considering a proposal that would require homeowners and businesses that use private wells to report on how much water they consume.

A special legislative committee is expected to present a list of ideas to Gov. Mike Easley, who could push for drought legislation on various fronts during the General Assembly's short session, which begins in May.

About 40 percent of North Carolina residents use private wells, and their water use is an unknown variable for state officials trying to develop accurate models to manage water resources during the ongoing drought.

State Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, said lawmakers are considering fining well owners if they don't report their water usage. But he said he recognizes that calculating that consumption might be hard for many people, noting he had three wells on his Orange County farm.

"Everyone wants to do their part for water conservation, but I don't have any idea what the water consumption rate is in our home," Faison said.

Grady Poole's family has dug wells for decades, and he said many of his customers put wells in specifically to keep the government out of their lives.

"They want to rely only on themselves and not have to depend on government to take care of them," Poole said. "If you have a private well, you should be able to use it at your discretion – when you want it, how you want it."

But Georgiann Fonte, who gets her water through Raleigh's municipal system and has had to curb her gardening because of tight water restrictions, said regulating well users is a matter of fairness.

"All of us have to conserve. If we don't, we may not have drinking water or bathing water," Fonte said. "I would think they'd want to conserve just for the fact they won't want their wells to run dry."