11/16/05 — Watching the Neuse

View Archive

Watching the Neuse

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 16, 2005 1:50 PM

without rain soon, there could be serious drought concerns

At around 6 a.m., John Thomas leaves his Johnston County home for some exercise, sometimes with a fishing pole, and doesn't return for hours.

Thomas, 57, said he has walked by the same spot on the Neuse River nearly every morning for 15 years.

"I love to look out onto the water," he said. "It can really bring a man peace."

But walking along the Neuse's banks is different this year. Large rocks near the water's edge that were submerged months ago peek out this morning, he said.

"I've been down this same stretch of river for a long time, and right now there's more mud on those banks and less water," he said.

Conditions in areas neighboring Wayne County have many city officials worried.

Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear said what happens upstream will almost always take its toll here at home.

Mrs. Brashear said the city is currently working to revise its water shortage response ordinance to help cope with worsening conditions.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers keeps close tabs on water levels at Falls Lake and the Neuse. In a recent report from staff member Terry Brown, measurements reflect a serious problem.

According to Brown's report, Falls Lake is currently at 243.8 feet, which falls below the measured 244.05 feet recorded during the 2002 drought.

His report also indicates that if the current dry spell continues and significant rainfall does not occur over the next few months, there might not be a water supply left in Falls Lake by early next year.

Today, roughly 32 percent of the water supply is left in the lake, a percentage that will likely drop to 2 percent by the end of January if conditions don't improve, the report said.

Now, state residents will be forced to play the waiting game in hopes that the winter months bring substantial rain to their communities.

Meanwhile, Thomas wants fellow North Carolinians to be responsible, he said.

"I just hope people realize that when they leave the hose on outside and water their plants five times a day, it hurts the river," he said. "I want my grandkids to take this walk one day and not see a bunch of mud where that water is out there."

Like many North Carolinians, Thomas said he has read and seen recent news stories discussing drought conditions across the state. He added he feels people and not nature are to blame.

"We can't get enough of anything," he said. "We use up all our resources, and people don't even see the urgency here. Water is the most precious resource we have."