Local News

More Water in Falls Lake Doesn't Signal Drought's End

Rains from recent storms have raised the level of Raleigh's chief water source to about 3 feet below normal.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Falls Lake appears to be leveling off after picking up about 5 feet from last week's rains.

The lake level was at 248½ feet Monday, a little less than 3 feet below normal. In recent weeks, it had been about 8 feet below normal.

Two storm systems last week dumped about 3 inches of rain on the Triangle.

"It's great news for all our citizens," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

In addition to the rain, other factors could help the levels of Falls Lake go even higher:

  • The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake, on March 3 cut the releases into the Neuse River by about 17 million gallons a day.
  • Tougher water restrictions that Raleigh imposed three weeks ago have reduced consumption by about 3 million gallons a day.
  • The lake loses less water to evaporation in cool weather.
  • Lake Michie, one of Durham's reservoirs, has refilled, meaning any new rains will flow downstream into Falls Lake.

Meeker said last week that city officials would look at easing some water restrictions that have impacted local businesses.

The Stage 2 restrictions implemented Feb. 15 banned the use of city water for outdoor irrigation and pressure-washing and required car washes to be certified by city inspectors to remain in operation.

"We should have the ability to say, when we get to a certain level of the lake, we're going to provide some relief for the super-affected industries," Meeker said.

Still, Raleigh officials are quick to note that the drought isn't over and that Stage 2 water restrictions would remain in place for the foreseeable future.

"Hopefully, nobody's silly enough to say (the drought is over) and start going back to their old habits," City Councilman Philip Isley said. "Certainly, people need to understand this is still very serious. We're not out of the woods yet."

Even when Stage 2 rules are lifted, Raleigh's year-round restrictions could become tougher, such as limiting outdoor watering to one or two days a week.

"Even when the lake is full, that will mean a day or two a week a few hours a day, not any day, all the day, like we used to have," Meeker said.