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Durham Joins Raleigh In Voluntary Water Restrictions

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DURHAM, N.C. — Another Triangle city is asking its residents to save water. The city of Durham has joined Raleigh in imposing voluntary conservation practices, effective Wednesday.

"We could be back in good shape if we have a steady rainfall, but if that doesn't happen, then we will need to protect our water supply," said Durham Assistant City Manager Ted Voorhees.

For September, Durham has received just 23 percent of its usual rainfall amounts. Declining levels have been reported at both of Durham's water supply lakes. Little River Lake is 14.52 feet below full and Lake Michie is 7.84 feet below full.

Usage, however, is high -- about 6 million gallons more per day than the same period last year.

With no significant rainfall predicted for the next five to seven days, the city's Department of Water Management has recommended the heightened voluntary conservation measures in Stage II of the city's ordinance. Those measures include:

  • Limiting the use of clothes washers and dishwashers and only wash full loads.
  • Reducing toilet flushing to the minimum, whenever practical.
  • Watering lawns only when grass shows signs of withering; watering late in day after 6 p.m., if possible.
  • Watering shrubs at a minimum and reusing household water, when possible.
  • Limiting car washing at home.
  • Limiting washing down sidewalks, driveways, patios and other hard surfaces.
  • Limiting the hours of operating water-cooled air conditioners.
  • Using biodegradable, disposable dishes and utensils, where feasible.
  • "The next level would be mandatory restrictions like we had in 2002," said Voorhees.

    Curtis Bradney has fought the good fight this summer with his lawn. The upside is if he does not have to water the grass, he does not have to break his back mowing it, either.

    "Every summer, grass dries up and you have to re-sod it anyway," said Bradney. "I'd rather have water for other things than just mowing my lawn or washing my car."

    For former California resident Vicki Schneider, saving water is nothing new. She is keeping cold water from her tap as she waits for hot water. She is also using her water hose sparingly.

    City leaders said the situation is nowhere near as severe as the drought in 2002, but they stress that people should follow the voluntary restrictions or they could be mandatory in the future.

    Last Tuesday, the city of Raleigh asked customers to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 10 percent, but so far, statistics show people are not. For the first two days, there was a slight drop in usage, but over the weekend usage spiked again.

    "At this point, it's not looking real good," said Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen. "Unless we get good citizen participation for the rest of the week, we'll likely be in mandatory restrictions by next week."

    Both Raleigh and Durham hope to emphasize to residents that this fall drought is a serious one.

    Durham resident William Mobley says he gets the message.

    "Remember in the gas crisis, there were long lines at the pumps? When it comes to water, there's no long line," Mobley said. "You'll just turn on the faucet and there will be nothing there."

    He encourages people to look at the bright side.

    "Paper plates will be nice, for me," Mobley said. "It will save me time in washing them."


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