11/15/05 — Limited rain keeps water supply low

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Limited rain keeps water supply low

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 15, 2005 1:51 PM

Although rain fell in Wayne County today, the recent stretch of dry weather has city officials concerned.

Mayor Al King said Monday that he and other city officials are keeping a close eye on levels at the Neuse River intake to determine whether more stringent conservation measures will be needed to protect the city's water supply.

City officials are also watching what Raleigh officials are doing. Should Raleigh get into trouble, officials there could restrict the supply of water available in the Neuse.

Last month, city officials urged voluntary conservation of water by residents and businesses because of the protracted dry spell that has left the river at low levels.

Under the guidelines of the city's water shortage response ordinance, when the river's level reaches mean sea level of 52 feet, a public request for voluntary conservation is issued. If the level drops to 48.5 feet, mandatory limitations on water use are put into place.

Today's rain likely will have little effect on the river level, unless it is followed by a lot more.

"If we don't get a substantial amount of rain in the next few weeks, we could be in trouble," King said Monday. "Once we reach that level (48.5 feet), we will be forced to enforce mandatory conservation."

If mandatory restrictions are ordered, individuals and businesses face fines for violations.

A warning is issued at the first violation. A second can draw a $100 fine for an individual. Additional violations carry a $200 fine.

Non-residential penalties are stiffer, with a warning issued on first offense, a $200 fine for the second offense and a $1,000 fine for each subsequent offense.

At a City Council work session last week, Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear said the city is still under voluntary conservation, but briefed the council on worsening drought conditions across the state.

"The city has only received 10 inches of rain in the last three months," Brashear said. "Water conservation will be essential if this drought continues."

Brasher said that the current river level at the water system's intake point is about 51 feet.

King said he is hoping for the best and that he believes that residents have done a good job conserving voluntarily.

"I think people out there are listening to us and it's helping. If they continue to conserve the way they are now, I don't think we'll have to implement mandatory conservation," King said.

Brashear said what concerns her are the current conditions upstream.

"Raleigh has moved into phase two of mandatory conservation," she pointed out. Some users have been fined for excessive water use, she said.