Local News

Water Woes Could Dry Up Durham Development

Posted December 4, 2007 12:56 p.m. EST
Updated December 4, 2007 8:48 p.m. EST

— Potential development in Durham could be put on hold because there may not be enough water to go around.

On Monday, the council delayed a vote to extend water and sewer lines to the area where a project called Jordan at Southpoint is proposed.

The move essentially puts the 228-unit subdivision on Fayetteville Road in southern Durham on hold.

"I don't want to make a commitment and find out in four months we can't live up to the commitment," Mayor Bill Bell said. "We're going to have to look at each one on a case-by-case basis."

The ongoing drought has left Lake Michie and Little River Reservoir, the city's two main water supplies, with 52 days of water as of Tuesday.

City officials have to ensure there's enough water for the homes and residents already in the city, Bell said.

If city leaders don't get a handle on the water problem soon, developers might start heading to other counties, said Frank Thomas, a spokesman for the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties.

"To be told no at this late stage in the game, when that sort of thing doesn't happen, it's cause for concern," Thomas said. "Anytime they start saying no to new development for any kind of reason, that would kind of qualify as a moratorium."

Bell said he doesn't think the drought will lead to a housing moratorium. He said developers are welcome to submit plans with the knowledge that a lack of water and sewer lines might hold their project up.

"I don't think the impact could be as great as if we ran out of water," he said.

County Manager Mike Ruffin said the drought could also limit Durham's ability to recruit new business if companies believe the city can't provide basic services.

Durham plans to tap into water an abandoned quarry in the coming weeks, which officials said could provide extend the city's water supply by about three weeks.

Meanwhile, city staff members were expected to meet with the Jordan at Southpoint developer to determine exactly how much water the subdivision would use. Bell also asked officials to look at how many housing projects are in the pipeline and how the drought could impact them.