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Statewide Drought Officially Over

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North Carolina Drought Monitoring Council

said the statewide drought over, but expressed concern that the end of the drought would bring complacency among residents, industry and municipalities.

The council reached its consensus after reviewing data showing greater than average rainfall over the past few months, streamflows at normal to above normal, reservoirs higher than normal, and measurements showing shallow groundwater had reached normal levels.

"Our main concern was how long it would be before groundwater recovered, since it takes so much longer for rainfall to reach wells than surface water," said Woody Yonts, chairman of the council. "This is the water table that supports the base flow of streams, and those levels rose much more quickly than any of us expected."

However, members cautioned water users across the state that many factors contribute to water availability, and urged them to continue the water use practices that became a lifestyle during the drought.

"Water systems should take advantage of raised public awareness and of current stable water supplies to plan for the next shortage, whether it's caused by drought, equipment malfunction, community growth or anything else," said Linwood Peele, chief of the Water Supply Planning Section. "A water shortage response plan, including ongoing water conservation requirements, is an essential part of any system's water supply plan."

Certain areas of the state suffer from continuing water shortages whether experiencing a drought or not. Overuse in the central Coastal Plain has caused the Black Creek and Upper Cape Fear aquifers to drop because nature cannot replenish them as quickly as agriculture, industry and drinking water systems pump the water out.

Some towns in the Sandhills and western Piedmont do not have large enough storage or treatment capacity to keep up with growth. Many of these are working on expanding their systems, emergency connections to other water systems, and changes in water use such as reuse of wastewater and conservation by major industries. Other municipalities have permanent, year-round conservation requirements of their water customers.

In other cases, competition for use limits supplies. In the Roanoke, Catawba and Yadkin-Pee Dee river basins, energy companies, recreational users, and industries and drinking water systems all have substantial need for water from the lakes and rivers. Towns upstream and downstream in the Cape Fear River basin place demands on the water from Jordan Lake and the river to meet drinking water needs.

Gov. Easley's executive order banning non-essential water use by state government will stand as agencies develop long-term water use policies.

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