Local News

Raleigh Residents Asked to Stick to 35 Gallons a Day

Posted January 22, 2008 1:49 p.m. EST
Updated January 22, 2008 6:53 p.m. EST

— Raleigh leaders on Tuesday asked city residents to limit their daily water consumption to 35 gallons per person to help extend the dwindling supply of drinking water as much as possible.

Mayor Charles Meeker two weeks ago urged residents to cut their water use to 25 gallons a day per person, noting Falls Lake, the city's primary reservoir, was about one-third of its normal level. The 35-gallon-a-day guideline amounts to about 1,000 gallons a month.

Meeker also called for a temporary 50 percent increase in water rates to encourage conservation, but the City Council said they wanted further study of the financial impact of lower water use before raising rates. He said Tuesday he was no longer pushing for the increase because of the strong opposition to the idea.

"We have a long, long way to go, and what we're trying to do now is to get that lake to fill up as much as possible before the warm weather starts in May," he said.

Falls Lake is more than 8½ feet below normal, and officials said drinking water should last until at least May 14 at current demand levels.

The City Council already backed Meeker's call for local residents to install low-flow devices on faucets and showers by March 1 and to purchase rain barrels to collect water for outdoor irrigation. On Tuesday, the council approved the purchase of 5,000 devices for low-income residents.

The council also agreed Tuesday to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains Falls Lake, to reduce releases from the lake into the Neuse River by 6 million to 9 million gallons a day.

City officials also want to work with the Corps of Engineers on possibly raising the level of the lake in the future to increase its overall capacity. Only 13 percent of the lake's capacity is used for drinking water, Meeker said, adding he would like to see that allocation raised to 17 percent.

Council members said they would hold off on implementing tighter water restrictions until Raleigh officials could meet with the mayors of six Wake County towns that buy water from the city.

Raleigh had planned to implement Stage 2 restrictions once the available water supply in Falls Lake dropped to 90 days. The rules would ban all outdoor watering and all pressure-washing and would allow car washes to operate only if they used approved water-recycling methods.

After the Feb. 1 meeting with the mayors of Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon, the tougher restrictions might be put in place even before the water supply drops to 90 days, officials said.

"(Those towns) represent about 15 or 20 percent of the usage each day. It's important to have all those citizens doing the same thing that we are," Meeker said.

At least two council members also suggested the city ask lawmakers to change state rules and allow Raleigh to recycle used water, often called "gray water," to help conserve even more.