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Easley: Water Systems Should Prepare for Lengthy Drought

The North Carolina water systems facing the worst supply problems need to link up with other systems, check their lines for leaks and adopt tiered water rates, Gov. Mike Easley said Monday.

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina water systems that have the most precarious reserves of available drinking water need to link up with other systems, check their lines for leaks and adopt tiered water rates to encourage conservation, Gov. Mike Easley said Monday.

Easley last month asked the managers of 30 water systems hit hardest by the ongoing drought, including Raleigh and Durham, to attend an Emergency Water Shortage Response Planning Workshop to ensure they were adequately prepared if the drought lingers into the summer.

“Public water systems should act now, not wait for an emergency, to set up interconnections with other water systems and seek backup supplies, whenever those options are possible,” Easley said.

The drought is the worst ever recorded in North Carolina, with two-thirds of the state's 100 counties experiencing the driest conditions on the state Drought Management Advisory Council's rating scale.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources would work with the League of Municipalities to ensure financing wouldn't delay any projects, he said. Some money in the state's "rainy day" fund could be tapped to pay for infrastructure improvements, he said.

"We can solve this problem forever so that we're prepared for any dry weather in the future, we're prepared to deal with any other drought that comes forward. We can knock this one off the table," he said.

DENR also will send water-audit experts into each of the 30 communities to ensure leaks and other structural problems aren't causing significant water losses, Easley said. The water audits would identify problems and recommend what to do to fix them, he said.

The governor also reiterated his request that water systems adopt tiered water rates to charge people higher rates as they use more water.

"It keeps it in people's minds that we have to change the way we look at water," he said.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker last week called for a temporary 50 surcharge on water rates, noting that the city's billing software couldn't accommodate tiered rates. The City Council held off on approving the measure, choosing to study the budget impact of such an increase.

Meeker has the right idea, Easley said.

"If you think people are upset with conservation rates, they're going to really be upset if they run out of water," he said.


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