Despite Drought, Much of N.C. Has No Water Limits

Posted July 5, 2007 6:13 p.m. EDT
Updated July 5, 2007 6:59 p.m. EDT

— Rainfall is down by as much as 50 percent in some parts of North Carolina, and the drought pattern across North Carolina is becoming more severe and persistent.

State leaders aren't calling the situation a crisis, but they are trying to shift the public's thinking from reckless water consumption to conservation.

Following the extreme drought in 2002, when reservoirs and rivers resembled wastelands, state leaders started requiring water systems to come up with plans to deal with shortages. But water systems serving more than 60 percent of North Carolina's population have no restriction on water use.

"Water supplies are adequate, but we want to be as proactive as we can," said Woody Yonts, director of the state Drought Management Advisory Council.

Other states are in even worse condition.

Before some recent rains, Atlanta banned all weekday outdoor watering. In Alabama, farmers are predicting severe crop damage, and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee called this year's drought the worst in 118 years.

"It's persistent, and we're getting the outer edges of it in our western counties. If these trends continue, then we certainly could have a remarkable impact," Yonts said.

Gov. Mike Easley has called for water conservation measures across the state. If drought conditions persist, more mandatory restrictions are expected.

For area residents like Joan Schmidtt, the lack of rain is a constant concern, especially in a state that craves green lawns.

"The growth is something that's going to continue and use more and more water. We have to think about it, and the kids have to think about it," Schmidt said.

But Apex resident Becky Laraia said she's not overly worried about North Carolina's water supply.

"It's been all over the news and everywhere, and people seem to think its really a big deal. I'm from Idaho. I know what a real drought is," Laraia said.

Raleigh is one of a small percentage of water systems under mandatory restrictions.