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N.C. Close to Water Emergency, Tougher Restrictions

A report released Thursday found 86 of the state's 100 counties are suffering from extreme drought. Without significant rainfall soon, Gov. Mike Easley said he may have to impose tougher restrictions.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The drought continues to cause worry throughout most of North Carolina.

A report released Thursday said 86 of the state's 100 counties are in extreme drought. Those areas have enacted voluntary or mandatory water-use restrictions.  Without rain soon, however, Gov. Mike Easley said Thursday that he may have to impose tougher restrictions.

On Aug. 23, Easley asked all North Carolinians to cut water consumption 20 percent. Despite cutbacks, the state remains dangerously close to being in a state of emergency from the drought

“Seeing people watering lawns really concerns me,” Raleigh resident Melinda Schroeder said.

Schroeder thinks Raleigh's moving too slow in its approach to water restrictions.

“I don't want to see us run out of water,” Schroeder said.

Raleigh implemented Stage 1 water restrictions on Aug. 28. Water demand has dropped 18 percent.

Raleigh Public Utilities Director Dale Crisp insists Raleigh has been aggressive in its approach to the water shortage. At this point, he said he does not see a need for state intervention.

Generally, they rely on us to know what is best for our communities, and as a whole, I think most of the system operators recognize that and are going to do the right thing," Crisp said.

Durham implemented Stage 3 water conservation measures on Oct. 15.

Lake Michie, a Durham water source, is down nearly 14 feet, but City Manager Patrick Baker insists it is no time to panic.

“The state's our partner, and I think all municipalities are trying to work together,” Baker said.

State law gives Easley the power to declare a state of emergency if he feels local governments are not doing enough to conserve water.

The trigger points for a state of emergency include communities running low on drinking water and fire departments lacking enough water to fight fires.

If the governor declares a state of emergency, he could force municipalities to reduce water use by 20 percent to 30 percent more.

The National Weather Service is not forecasting significant rainfall through the coming week.

Durham may decide on tougher water restrictions Friday. Raleigh's leaders will consider next week whether to ban all outdoor watering.



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