Although town leaders say they do not immediately need the water, they are asking for it now as they move forward with plans to build a new subdivision that would more than double the town's population of 5,000 people.
Developers want to build up to 4,000 homes at a site off Poole Road. It would be at least a year before the water would be needed.
"In order to accommodate our future growth needs, we are going to have additional water supply from the city of Raleigh," Wendell Town Manager Timothy Burgess said.
Currently, Raleigh supplies Wendell with 1 million gallons of water a day, but with the recent drought, Raleigh City Councilman Philip Isley believes the city should take care of its own water customers first.
"I guess what I'd like to debate is why we continue to sell water out of our city when our citizens need it probably more so than anybody else in the county," Isley said.
Despite the recent rain, Raleigh's main water supply, Falls Lake, is still 6.75 feet below normal -- just 2 feet from an all-time record-low. It supplies water to the eastern half of Wake County, which is made up of about eight municipalities, including Rolesville, Garner and Wake Forest.
Isley said that when the city is asking its customers to cut back, it should not send more water outside city limits. City Manager Russell Allen says, however, that the city cannot use all the water from Falls Lake because it is not entirely Raleigh's.
"It is the region's," Allen said. "We just happen to treat the wastewater."
Experts say it is a national trend for larger cities to sell treated water to smaller municipalities because they can treat water at a much cheaper rate. For Raleigh, it is a trend that brings in more than $7 million a year for the city.
Compared to a Raleigh water customer that uses 6,000 gallons a month for about $27, a Wendell customer using the same amount would pay about $67.
While it may be bad timing for Wendell town leaders to make such a request, it is necessary now because developers want to begin construction on the Poole Road subdivision in early 2006. The houses, however, would be built over a 10-year period, and Wendell leaders hope Raleigh City Council members realize that over time there will be enough water to share.
"I think the drought is a temporary thing," Burgess said.
Raleigh does have plans to have Wendell merge with its water system within a year. Raleigh has already taken over water operations in Rolesville, Garner and Wake Forest.
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