Local News

Raleigh Leaders Face Growing Water Shortage Problem

Posted November 17, 2005 8:12 a.m. EST

— Raleigh is using 22 million gallons more of water every day than it was 12 years ago, but one city leader says residents are not the problem. Seven outside cities and towns are buying water from the Capital City, and he says it is putting a strain on the supply in drought conditions.

"I wish we didn't have as many municipalities on our system today," City Council member Philip Isley said.

Isley says the city may have more outside customers than it should handle.

"It's a great profit center for us, so there's a balance," he said. "If we were at a normal stage of rainfall, there would be no issues."

According to city estimates, a little more than 250,000 people called Raleigh home in 1995, but that number has increased by more than 90,000 in the past 10 years. And each additional resident increases the strain on the city's water sources.

"It's kind of a wake-up call," said Woody Yonts, the chairman of the North Carolina Drought Council.

Yonts says the city has to deal with the supply it has from Falls Lake until other water supplies come online from Lake Wheeler and Lake Benson, but that will not happen for a few more years.

"We've definitely got more people using water, and we've got to get creative here," he said.

If dry periods mean trouble, simply hoping for more rain is not a short-term solution. This is the second time in two years for water restrictions in dry periods.

"I don't think we're going to run out of water, but we've never been in this situation before," Isley said.

Raleigh does place growth restrictions on communities that buy water from the city. No one is talking about stopping growth altogether, but the idea is not unprecedented. Concord, N.C., put a moratorium on growth between 2001 and 2003 and it is still dealing with lawsuits from developers who wanted to build during that period.