Local News

Councilman: Durham's Water Rules a 'Joke'

Posted February 25, 2008 6:07 p.m. EST
Updated February 26, 2008 5:21 a.m. EST

— One person since last September has been slapped with an interruption of service for violating Durham's water restrictions, prompting a City Council member to call local restrictions a failure.

The average daily demand for water in Durham is down about 10 percent from a year ago, although water use has been higher in recent weeks than it was in January.

"It's a joke," Councilman Eugene Brown said. "There's really no reason to call it whatever stage you want of water conservation if you don't enforce it."

Since Raleigh ratcheted up its water-use rules on Feb. 15, city officials have issued eight $1,000 fines to violators. Dozens of homeowners faced smaller fines last fall for breaking earlier regulations.

By contrast, Durham doesn't issue fines – restoring water service does entail a $400 fee – choosing to issue warnings and notices of violation. About 230 warnings for first offenses have been issued since September, and repeat offenders have been cited seven times.

Brown said Durham needs stricter penalties for violators. He has asked the city water department to come up with new enforcement guidelines within the next few weeks.

"The only way to do this is with fines, and it appears Raleigh is finally waking up and doing a much better job in that arena than we are," he said.

City officials said they don't have the manpower to police water violations. Two people are out on the streets to check for violations, officials said, noting a city employee usually has to catch someone in the act for a notice of violation to be issued.

"This should have been discussed last fall when we went to that stage," Brown said.

Durham resident Michael Hayes said he would like to see personal accountability and initiative among local residents.

"We can't wait for the government to take care of these issues. People are really going to have to step up and do something," said Hayes, who has installed four rain barrels and low-flow toilets at his house.