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'Perfect' Rain Raises Rocky Mount Reservoir 13 Feet

Heavy rain in the watershed that feeds Rocky Mount's Tar River Reservoir gave the city a break as it was nearing "empty" in its water supply.

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ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Rocky Mount did not have a choice, but it turned out to be lucky in having its reservoir in the right place at the right time when rain finally came to the region last week.

With water from heavy rains flowing off the land and into the Tar River Reservoir, the city that was running desperately close to the bottom of its supply could be set for at least the next few months.

Officials say that last week, the city had about 10 percent of its water supply left. After last week's rain, the Tar River Reservoir is now up 13 feet from its reading of 107 feet at its dam, a boost of more than 10 percent in the water elevation.

“It was like the movie 'The Perfect Storm.' This was actually the perfect rain,” said Wayne Hollowell, Rocky Mount’s director of water resources.

The reservoir is still rising, and Hollowell credits heavy rain upstream, near Louisburg.

“We had a tremendous surge in the flow of the river,” Hollowell said. “It’s given us our new life.”

The water level is not yet back to a point where the city can reopen all the boat-access points on the reservoir, but the increase provides a lot of relief to the people who worry about city residents having water to drink.

“I think you are looking at a supply that will take us easily into the spring with no (more) help from the rain,” Hollowell said.

Drought planning remains in full force, nonetheless. Crews are a few days away from completing a pipeline so Rocky Mount can buy water from Wilson, a city with a source twice as big. And, although things look better on the Tar River, Rocky Mount will likely push forward to buy at least some.

“I think we would be remiss if we didn't at least activate it for a month and make sure that worked and what impact it had on our system,” Hollowell said. Water officials plan to discuss details with city leaders on Wednesday.

The city will continue to stress conservation and remains under Stage 2 restrictions that ban all lawn sprinklers and reduce commercial use, but officials could scale back limits.


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