Local News

No Good Water News in the Offing

Posted August 21, 2007 7:14 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2007 8:33 p.m. EDT

— Weather forecasters foresee no significant rain any time soon, and federal, state and local officials agreed Tuesday that they may be looking at choosing among distasteful options to keep a water shortage form turning critical.

The North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council met Tuesday to assess the drought situation. None of the officials representing an array of agencies had good news to share.

The bad news − little or no heavy, soaking rain in the offing − came officially from Jeff Orrock of the National Weather Service.

"If we don't experience a lot of heavy rainfall in the next six weeks, we could be in rough conditions for the fall, which is normally a dry time of the year," Orrock said. Short bursts of heavy weather like what blew through the Triangle Tuesday evening does not even make a dent in the drought, officials said.

The state needs 12 to 18 inches of rainfall to ease drought conditions, the kind or rain a tropical storm could bring. The developing La Niña global weather pattern does not favor that, however.

Falls Lake, which is Raleigh’s primary source, is down and going lower. In places, logs and rocks are beginning to poke through the surface in places where they normally are covered. The National Weather Service daily data showed the lake about 4 feet below normal on Tuesday morning.

Cities, which are the governments to whom residents look for water in their taps, may have to make tough choices. Half of the state is already under some kind of water conservation requirements.

In Raleigh, the rules could get tighter than the current odd-day, even-day restrictions on watering. Demand is rising rather than falling

"The city does not like to move to the point where we are having to mandate water-use habits,” Public Utilities Dale Crisp said. Officials have taken steps, however, to be ready to move to the next stage or restrictions if conditions do not improve. That could include one-day-per-week watering during certain hours and car-washing only on weekends.

"Right now, it does not look very promising," Terry Brown of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said of the outlook for rain.

The Corps, which controls the major area reservoirs, will have to restrict releases from local lakes, including Falls Lake, while trying not to hurt downstream cities like Goldsboro that depend on the flow.

"We really need some long-term rainfall," Orrock said.