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Raleigh Waits On Mandatory Water Restrictions

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh city leaders rejected mandatory water restrictions Tuesday, despite evidence that merely asking for reductions during the ongoing drought has not worked.

Leaders were considering whether to start fining consumers for watering lawns during peak hours, but City Manager Russell Allen advised the city council Tuesday that rain expected this week could help ease pressure on the dwindling water supply.

"We don't expect that rainfall event will restore the lake to any significant level at all, but it may knock down consumption enough to buy us a couple of days or weeks," Allen said.

In his report, Allen said that current projections indicate that Raleigh has sufficient water supply storage for the remainder of the year -- by only one day.

Still, in a news release Tuesday afternoon, the city said citizens and businesses must be more conscientious about conserving water, especially regarding irrigation, or that there would not be enough to last for the rest of the year.

It has been 56 days since the area received significant rainfall. Falls Lake, Raleigh's water source, continues to drop, the city said.

On Sept. 20, the city council authorized the voluntary water conservation measures and asked water customers to reduce their consumption by 10 percent. As of Tuesday, water usage had only dropped 7.3 percent.

The Raleigh area, which normally gets 4 inches of rain in September, has gotten just .82 inches. Monthly rainfall this year, except for April and July, has been well below normal.

Despite rejecting mandatory restrictions Tuesday, city leaders said required conservation is still likely to happen.

"I think the message to go out today is mandatory requirements are imminent unless we get some rain, real rain in the next few days," said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker.

Under a mandatory restriction, those caught breaking the rules would have faced fines ranging from $50 for a first offense to $500 for a second.

The changes also would have affect eight towns that depend on Raleigh for water: Garner, Wake Forest, Rolesville, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon.

"Nobody plans for this until there is a problem," said Charles Bell, president of American Pride car washes and a member of the city's water conservation task force. "Water is cheap. Maybe if water went up like the price of gasoline, people would conserve."

Meanwhile, the city of Durham also remains under voluntary water conservation practices. Since it started urging residents to conserve water, usage has only dropped 2 percent. City officials say they are closely monitoring weather forecasts calling for rain this week.

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