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State Leaders Discuss Water-Saving Technology

Conserving water is a must during this year's statewide drought, but experts said it will take more than going easy on the taps.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Conserving water is a must during this year's statewide drought, but it will take more than going easy on the taps to avert serious supply problems.

A conference in Raleigh on Friday highlighted the latest  water-conservation technologies and programs.

Experts from around the state shared ideas and ways to work together, from water reclamation and reuse to efficient designs for new buildings and retrofits of existing buildings to the use of drought-tolerant plants.

Water managers said planning ahead is more important than ever, with an estimated 3 million people expected to move to North Carolina during the next few years.

"The strategies that we have to put together now have to start moving to address that at a pace of people that keep moving in. We're still not at a level of sustainability in North Carolina," said Michael Nicklas, president of Innovative Design in Raleigh, which specializes in sustainable architecture.

The meeting came as Raleigh leaders are considering their options. The city has already banned most outdoor watering because of Falls Lake's dwindling water supply.

If the lake's water level drops a bit more, the city will ban outdoor watering and pressure-washing altogether.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said the restrictions may not be enough. He said the city may have to go to more severe measures.

"There'll likely be requests on for things like paper plates instead of washing china, limitations on flushing toilets – things we are not used to but we may have to go to," he said.

Meeker said those measures will happen if severe conditions remain and water usage stays the same.

Water worries are not limited to Raleigh.

The Triangle J Council of Governments told local leaders Thursday that water is being wasted through things like leaky pipes. Raleigh is losing more than 3 million gallons a day while Durham is losing an estimated 1.3 million gallons.

"Reservoir levels, even if they come up somewhat over this winter and into the spring, are going to drop even faster next summer than they did this summer," Sydney Miller, Triangle J's water resources manager, said.

Gov. Mike Easley said he called Friday's meeting in hopes that informing communities about water-saving technology will help them come up with long-term solutions. He also called a special meeting of the state Drought Management Advisory Council for next Thursday.

“I have been calling on residents across the state to conserve since the drought began last spring, and we have had some good results,” he said in a statement. “However, the latest data shows that the drought keeps getting worse and that water use has increased. It is essential that everyone cut back to the absolute minimum amount of water they need to take care of their families.”

Wake County Commissioner Kenn Gardner said he appreciated the perspectives offered at Friday's conference.

"We can sit down and share our experiences and technologies that are out there," Gardner said.


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