Local News

Meeker's Water Use Overflows His Proposed Daily Limit

Posted January 8, 2008 5:50 p.m. EST
Updated January 8, 2008 7:05 p.m. EST

— Mayor Charles Meeker has cut his water consumption in recent months, but he still has a ways to go to meet the daily goal of 25 gallons per person he has set for Raleigh water customers.

According to Meeker's last four water bills, he and his wife, Anne McLaurin, have cut their daily usage from about 67 gallons each last June to about 39 gallons each last month.

But recent water use in Meeker's house was up from the 33 gallons he and his wife used daily in September and October, according to the bills.

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 also proposed a temporary 50 percent increase in water rates to encourage people to conserve and offset the resulting loss of revenue to the Department of Public Utilities.

Meeker said he was given a rain barrel for Christmas and plans to install water-saving devices in his kitchen and bathrooms that should help the couple to meet his 25-gallon daily goal.

Still, the mayor could have a hard time keeping up with the Harwoods. The Rolesville family of four has lopped their water consumption in half through a variety of conservation measures.

"(It's just) little things. I really don't think they're that big of an effort on our part. It's just common sense stuff," Bobbi Harwood said.

The family uses paper plates for a third of its meals, and they pour water left in drink bottles into a pitcher to rinse dishes. Bobbi Harwood also uses a four-gallon bucket to collect water as the shower heats up, which is then used to flush toilets.

"I turn my water on (and) will get my stuff ready. Rather than let it go down the drain, it's going in the bucket," she said.

Newly installed rain barrels outside the house could help reduce the family's consumption even further, she said.

It's the type of effort from citizens Meeker and other city officials said they would like to see duplicated.

"I think we need to make these changes now because you can't make them overnight," Meeker said.

The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday backed the mayor's proposal to urge local residents to install water-saving devices on faucets, in showers and in toilets by March 1 and to purchase rain barrels to collect water for outdoor use.

City officials also want builders to make such devices standard in all new housing developments.

Tim Minton, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, said several options are on the table for the group's members. But he said he doesn't think the water shortage is the result of mismanaged growth across the region.

"New construction is a small percentage of residential housing that we have," Minton said. "The facts are, if we don't grow, we're going to die. We don't want to see that. We want to see some type of growth going on."