01/25/06 — State officials present case for new water usage rules

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State officials present case for new water usage rules

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 25, 2006 2:14 PM

Tougher restrictions on water use during droughts would hurt small businesses that depend on water to operate, several speakers said Tuesday at a public hearing at Wayne Community College.

State officials are proposing new regulations governing water use during droughts. Three public hearings are being held across the state to allow public comments on the changes. The eastern North Carolina hearing was held in Goldsboro. A similar hearing was held last week in Lexington, and another is planned for Asheville on Jan. 31.

The owners of golf courses and car washes were among those who expressed concern over how the proposed rules would affect their businesses.

The new restrictions would require businesses, such as a car wash, to recycle 40 percent of all consumed water and decrease consumption during a drought by 10 percent. Dale Reynolds, a member of the North Carolina Southeastern Car Wash Association, said these restrictions are a burden for small business owners.

"It puts tremendous hardships on the business. People think we use a lot of water. We don't use a huge amount, but we are a visible user, which can be a detriment," he said.

David Quick, who owns two car washes in Goldsboro, said his businesses already does all they can to save water.

"It only takes 20 gallons of water to wash your car at the self-service. Most people use somewhere around 100 gallons when they wash their car in their driveway," Quick said. "We've done everything we can to limit our consumption. Any further water restrictions is an inconvenience."

Other visible water users are the state's golf courses. However, with restrictions, Brian Powell of the North Carolina Golf Course Superintendents Association said 42,000 jobs and $6 billion in economic benefit could be lost.

Tourists provide 30 percent of the state's revenue. Many of them come to experience the state's golf courses. By not allowing course managers to adequately water their tees, fairways and greens, he said the results could be disastrous.

"Imagine that the U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst. If it is at that venue and there are problems with the water rules, it could ruin the beauty of the course and leave a bad impression with visitors and the PGA. Then they would move it to another venue and that would hurt golf, the hotels, tourism and the state economy. It was projected that tournament provided $200 million in one week," Powell said.

Mark Peters, a member of the Green Industry Council, said he believes water usage rules are necessary. However, they need revisions before being enacted. Otherwise, he will not be able to continue operating his nursery.

"The state needs to recognize that outdoor water use is necessary for North Carolina's economy. Statistics predict that green industries have an $8 billion effect on our economy. People are going to think these industries are wasteful with water, they will stop buying trees and the county will suffer," Peters said.

Several speakers said state officials should look to big businesses if they want to have an effect on water usage.

Linwood Peele is section chief of the state Division of Water Resources' Water Supply Planning Section. He said the purpose of the proposed rules is to minimize the effect of water shortages on public health and the environment by establishing minimum standards for water conversation.

Peele said state officials will consider all suggestions brought before the Division of Water Resources before making any restrictions final. As one of the last speakers, Charles Bell of American Pride Car Washes had a suggestion of his own.

"We have a responsibility and we have to make an effort to show how we save water. Water conservation only comes up when we have a drought, but we should conserve water every day through technology and recycling. We have made an investment and will continue to make an investment to conserve water," Bell said.