Local News

Water Conservation Levels Off in Raleigh

Posted December 21, 2007 6:23 p.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2007 6:50 p.m. EST

— After falling steadily during the fall, water use in Raleigh has leveled off in recent weeks, which could require creativity by city officials to cut consumption even more.

Gov. Mike Easley on Thursday called for Raleigh and 29 other water systems across North Carolina with the lowest supplies of drinking water to cut consumption by 40 percent.

The City Council is expected to discuss next month implementing tiered water rates, which would charge people more for using more than a specified amount of water. Easley said water systems statewide should adopt such "conservation pricing" to encourage people to cut back.

"There's different ways to do it. You could have a surcharge, where after a certain amount you penalize," said Ed Buchan, a water conservation specialist with Raleigh's Department of Public Utilities.

Raleigh officials hope to cut usage from 40 million to no more than 35 million gallons a day, but Buchan said even doubling the price of water might not have an impact on local residents.

"It's just kind of like the price of gas. There really hasn't been a tremendous reduction in people's travel habits. It's more expensive, but people have not stopped driving," he said. "The reality is people pay $120 a month for cable and Internet, and they don't blink at that. Basically, water in the city of Raleigh is $25 (to) $30 a month."

Although officials said the hope people take it upon themselves to conserve water, some residents said they already have cut back plenty.

"I can't wash my car, can't water my lawn. My lawn's dead," resident Chris Schlenker said. "I think it would probably take water rationings from the city and state. ... I've already cut back quiet a bit."