Local News

Durham Relaxes Water Rules

Durham on Tuesday became the latest city to ease its water restrictions as spring rains continue to replenish area reservoirs.

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DURHAM, N.C. — Durham on Tuesday became the latest city to ease its water restrictions as spring rains continue to replenish area reservoirs.

The city's two primary reservoirs, Lake Michie and the Little River Reservoir, are full, prompting city officials to allow Durham residents to once again water their lawns. Outdoor irrigation is permitted on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 5 and 8 a.m. or 5 and 8 p.m.

Durham has at least 321 days of available drinking water in the two reservoirs, but the City Council approved a plan that clearly outlines the conditions that would trigger tighter restrictions this summer.

Outdoor watering will be limited to one day a week once the reservoirs drop to 80 percent of capacity and will be eliminated altogether if they are only half full. Last year, by contrast, the reservoirs had been drawn down to 14 percent of capacity when outdoor watering was banned.

“Since our stream flows are still lower than normal and higher usage months are right around the corner, we need to be cautious about rolling back restrictions and clear about when we will not hesitate to tighten them again,” City Manager Patrick Baker said in a statement.

Durham's restrictions continue to prohibit using city water for pressure-washing, car-washing and filling fountains.

Cary and Apex also eased local restrictions Tuesday, allowing alternate-day watering with sprinklers or automatic systems and watering with a hand-held hose any day of the week. Fayetteville and Harnett County scaled back their limits last week.

Raleigh and the Orange Water and Sewer Authority are the two biggest area water systems that have held steady with their water restrictions.

Falls Lake, which is Raleigh's primary reservoir, was at about 77 percent of capacity Tuesday, or about 1½ feet below normal. The Raleigh City Council has given City Manager Russell Allen permission to ease rules and allow the use of hand-held hoses for watering once the lake reaches 90 percent.

Since the city adopted Stage 2 restrictions two months ago, daily water use has fallen more than 5 percent, to about 38 million gallons. Based on that demand level, Falls Lake has enough drinking water to last until Jan. 22, 2009, officials said.

OWASA said Tuesday that its reservoir system was at 61 percent of capacity, enough for 348 days at the current use level, which has fallen with restrictions on use.