Local News

Raleigh Council OKs Some Water-Saving Ideas

Posted January 8, 2008 6:10 a.m. EST
Updated January 8, 2008 7:14 p.m. EST

— The City Council on Tuesday approved several of Mayor Charles Meeker's suggestions to slash local water consumption, but council members held off on his two most controversial ideas: a 25-gallon individual daily limit on water and a temporary 50 percent increase in water rates.

The average person uses about 60 to 70 gallons of water a day, and Meeker said Monday that he wants everyone to cut that number by more than half. He said raising water rates on March 1 would encourage people to conserve and would offset the resulting loss of revenue to the Department of Public Utilities.

Council members said they wanted to study the budget impact of a 50 percent water surcharge, and they want to create a water education program for all area property owners. The council also wants to look at accelerating the move to tiered water rates, where a sliding scale is used to increase charges as consumption rises.

Meeker said Monday that the city's billing software system couldn't accommodate tiered rates, but that managers were looking to upgrade to a new program in the next couple of years that could handle tiered-rate billing.

The council did back the mayor's proposal to urge area homeowners, apartment complex managers and office building landlords to install low-flow shower heads and faucets and toilet inserts by March 1 and to ask builders to include such devices on all new housing developments built in the city.

Upgrading a home could cost $200 to $600, experts said. Meeker and City Manager Russell Allen said the city would work with nonprofit groups to help low-income families purchase water-saving devices.

Raleigh also will advise the 140,000 customers on the city water system that the outdoor watering ban will likely remain in place for 2008 so drinking water isn't used for irrigation. But council members said they want to look at the impact of local water restrictions on area swimming pools.

Any pool that was drained for the winter would have to remain empty this summer under current regulations.

Council members said they would like to meet with the mayors of Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon to discuss the water-saving measures. The six towns purchase water from Raleigh's system.

The council also voted to ask the Army Corps of Engineers to reduce discharges from Falls Lake into the Neuse River. The Corps of Engineers manages the lake, which also serves as Raleigh's primary reservoir.

Meanwhile, the Corps of Engineers met Tuesday to discuss continue reducing releases from the lake. Such a move could adversely affect Neuse River levels and the communities downstream that draw their water from river, including Smithfield and Goldsboro.