Local News

Orange Water Customers Could Get Tougher H2O Rules

Posted February 28, 2008 6:06 a.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2008 11:09 p.m. EST

— The Orange Water and Sewer Authority officials voted unanimously to tighten water restrictions and implement surcharges on both residential and commerical customers from mid March.

Officials declared a Stage 3 Water Shortage, effective from March 1. Residential customers are urged voluntarily reduce their daily usage to no more than 35 gallons, while commerical and business customers are asked to cut their usage to 20 percent of their pre-drought consumption levels.

OWASA officials said they expect water rate surchages and increases to encourage customers to meet those water reduction goals.

A 1.25 percent surchage will be applied to any residential customer that uses 3,000 or more gallons in any billing period. That surchage goes up the more water a customer uses.

Peak rates for non-residential customers will go into effect early. A 1.25 percent water surchage will also be added to commerical and business cutomers' bills.

All the rate increases and surcharges go into effect March 17.

As of Tuesday, OWASA said, its supply in Cane Creek and University Lake were 40 percent full, creating a five months supply at the current rate of demand of 9 million gallons per day. If daily usage drops to about 7 million, that supply will extend out to slightly more than six months.

Ed Kerwin, OWASA executive director, said the system has never been this low at the end of February – normally a high-level time – since OWASA began keeping detailed records in 1980.

Demand from all users in December 2007 and January 2008 dropped an average of 10 percent from the same period a two-month period a year ago.

Single-family residences cut demand by 14.2 percent, commercial customers by 9.7 percent, and multifamily customers by 4.7 percent. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill – OWASA's single largest water customer – cuts its uage by 5 percent during that period.

Landscapers, cleaning businesses and others that use large amounts of water can get reclaimed water in bulk at OWASA's Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Users can pick up 250 gallons at a time for irrigation, decoration and other non-drinking uses. They must attend a mandatory one-time training class given by OWASA staff.

If the water supply rises to 60 percent by April 1, OWASA will consider downgrading to Stage Two restrictions. If water supply reaches more than 70 percent, officials might drop back to Stage One restrictions.

OWASA serves 80,000 customers in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.