Local News

Rocky Mount May Ask Wilson For Water Assistance

Posted August 21, 2007 7:50 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2007 10:51 p.m. EDT

— Rocky Mount is looking for help from a neighbor to sustain the town through a severe water shortage.

Rocky Mount town officials are considering asking to purchase between 2 and 3 million gallons of water a day from the City of Wilson, about 20 miles away.

While the proposal is still being developed, Wilson officials said they would look favorably on such a request.

"Rocky Mount has been very kind to the city of Wilson in the past, and we want to make sure we extend that kindness to them during this time," Brian Bowman, public affairs manager for the City of Wilson, said.

A pipeline already exists that was used in past exchanges of water between the communities and could be expanded to serve the latest proposal, officials said.

Rocky Mount is facing its worst water shortage in several decades, officials said.

"I think it is serious. The problem is the lack of water coming down the Tar River," Stephen Raper, Rocky Mount city manager, said.

The Tar River Reservoir, which supplies most of Rocky Mount's water, is filled to less than half of its capacity. Levels in the reservoir are at their lowest point in 30 years, town officials said.

Buckhorn Reservoir, which serves Wilson, is 30 percent below capacity, but since it's twice the size of the Tar River Reservoir, Wilson still has plenty of water, city leaders said. Five billion gallons are in the Buckhorn Reservoir, Bowman said.

Hurricane Fran gave Wilson an unexpected boon in 1999. Wilson completed building Buckhorn Reservoir shortly before the hurricane hit, immediately filling up the reservoir.

Bowman praised the foresight of city leaders who planned and built the reservoir.

"Somebody years ago said we're going to need to build more, and they built more," Bowman said. "And we can see now this is the result. We're very grateful to have this water."

Rocky Mount leaders said they are also considering increasing water-use restrictions before this week is over. The current regulations apply to residential and commercial customers and restrict lawn watering, filling swimming pools, car washing and serving water in restaurants.

Although no date has been set or cost estimated for the proposed purchase of water, Rocky Mount town leaders said they'll be grateful for any water coming down the line.

"We're getting to the point where we'll take as much as we can get," Raper said.