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In Durham, They Keep Water Flowing

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DURHAM — Several communities in the Triangle are resorting to water restrictions but Durham has never had to do that. In fact, the city is selling water.

Experts at Durham's Water Treatment Plant have a three-pronged approach to ensuring that the city's residents have sufficient water. They cite redundancy, planning for the future and reserves.

At the Brown Water Treatment plant in northern Durham, the city has several immense tanks that hold five million gallons of water each, and Durham has other reserve tanks that are even larger.

It seems simple, but the city has terminal reservoirs spread across the city, holding raw water ready for treatment, on standby. The terminal reservoir at the Brown Water Treatment Plant holds 90 million gallons, a three-day supply.

Susan Turbak of the Environmental Services office says redundancy is the key word. "We are very lucky to have two very high quality raw water supplies for the city of Durham. We also have two treatment facilities -- the Brown Plant and the Williams plant -- and it gives us a lot of operational flexibility."

Credit for starting the water service off on a good footing goes to John Michie, back at the turn of the century. One of the reservoirs is named for him. He envisioned a Durham far larger than the one he knew, and took that prospective growth into consideration when he set up an elaborate system of holding tanks.

The planning and execution have been so good over the years that Durham has never had to restrict water use in summer, as many nearby cities and towns have had to do.

In fact, they have been able to sell water to their less fortunate neighbors.

But selling water may be cut back in the coming years, due to Durham's continuing growth.

Meantime, despite the relatively good situation, city officials still preach conservation -- but Durham residents should be well covered at their faucets.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Jim Young, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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