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Have Raleigh Water Rules Run Their Course?

Rain continues to fall, but Raleigh leaders are clear that it is still too soon to ease use restrictions.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Triangle lake levels are continuing to rise with recent rainfall, and some communities are lifting water restrictions. However, Raleigh is not one of them, and outdoor watering may be illegal for a little while longer.

Falls Lake, which is Raleigh's primary reservoir, was at about 77 percent of capacity Tuesday, or about 1½ feet below normal.

Businesses that thrive outdoors would like nothing better than to see relaxed water restrictions.

Keeping plants alive without tap water "is certainly a challenge," said Joshua Logan with Logan's Trading Co., a nursery north of downtown Raleigh.

Logan's Trading Co. tries to capture thousands of gallons of rainwater in barrels. They also buy as much as 9,000 gallons of water a week from Franklin County.

"Certainly, we are looking forward to when the tap loosens up a little bit," Logan said.

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.

"Still no spray irrigation or anything like that, but you could do hand-held," Allen said of potential Stage 1 restrictions.

There will be no sprinklers allowed until Falls Lake is full, he added.

Meanwhile, Raleigh is issuing more citations for water violations than ever before.

"Thousands of dollars of fines for violations of Stage 2 (water restrictions)," Allen said.

The city has written 36 tickets so far, about a third of those in the last week.

"It's just that when it rains and particularly when you see reports of nearby lakes being lifted, you think that maybe that's the same case here in Raleigh," Allen said.

It's not the case, however. Raleigh leaders said it is important for the lake to be full when the summer months begin and less rainfall is likely.

“We are optimistic and confident that it (Stage 1 restrictions) will be coming soon," Logan said.

For Falls Lake to fill up, rain needs to fall in places that are in its watershed, such as Durham, Franklin and Orange counties, Allen said.

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.


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