11/30/07 — No end to water rules yet for area

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No end to water rules yet for area

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on November 30, 2007 1:46 PM

With Monday's rain, Goldsboro residents might have a little more water to use, but officials warn that a few droplets won't be enough to dent the drought conditions.

More than 56 counties in the state are in exceptional drought -- the worst of the drought categories -- and 22 are in extreme drought, including Wayne County.

Because of that, Gov. Mike Easley and the North Carolina Drought Manage-ment Advisory Council are asking all communities to cut back.

And Goldsboro is adhering to their recommendations.

City Council implemented the third phase of the city's mandatory conservation ordinance Nov. 5, placing the most restrictive measures on residents yet.

The measures seemed to have worked, city officials say.

Daily consumption is down from 6.2 million to 4.5 million gallons -- a 27 percent decrease from before mandatory measures were put in place in September, Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear said.

Between the third phase implementation and the colder weather, residents have cut back their water usage, Mrs. Brashear said.

"We have some good people out there," she said. "So far so good."

At the end of October and beginning of November, the water level of the Neuse River, the city's primary source, was slightly above 9 feet after a day's rainfall but was back below 3 feet on Nov. 6, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site.

With rainfall, the water level normally rises, peaks and then returns to a median level within a few days, Mrs. Brashear said.

The water level is above what it was earlier this week, following the trend after Monday's rainfall.

On Monday, the water level varied between 2.50 and 2.53 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The level has steadily increased throughout the week with today's level coming in at 2.80 feet.

But that level is falling.

Mrs. Brashear expects it to steadily decrease back to the 2.5 to 3 feet range.

Knowing that, the conservation measures need to keep moving forward, she said.

City Manager Joe Huffman agreed, but has high expectations.

"The failing lies with users," he said. "I think we can do better."

Half of water consumption comes from residential users, Mrs. Brashear said, but she has stress-free suggestions on how to cut down.

Residents can start cutting back by using low-flow devices.

"I have done a lot of research on this," she said. "A normal shower head uses five to 7 gallons per minute, while a low-flow shower head uses only 2.3 gallons per minute and has the same pressure. Right there, you've already reduced your shower water by half or more."

Cutting the time spent in the shower will help, too.

"Let's just say, just for fun, that you take a 15-minute shower at 5 gallons per minute," Mrs. Brashear said. "That's 75 gallons of water. That's a lot of water. Honestly, why should anyone take 75 gallons of water to get clean?"

Those numbers can be cut dramatically, though.

If a person takes a five-minute shower instead of a 15-minute one, they will use 25 gallons of water -- a third less.

"And, if you unscrew your normal shower head and screw in a low-flow, that would only be using 11.5 gallons," Mrs. Brashear said -- an 85 percent reduction just from two small efforts.

"If the 48,000 people we have here in Goldsboro reduce their shower water by 85 percent, that is very, very huge," she said. "To me, that is really very cool."

Using shower timers, shutting off the water while brushing teeth and only running dish and clothes washers when they are full are other tips to dramatically lowering that monthly water bill.

"There are things one can do," she said. "It doesn't take much to help out and cut back."

The director is glad to see the drop in water consumption and said she hopes it continues.

"We need people to have a plan on how to get the consumption down another half million to million gallons per day," she said.

As of now, Mrs. Brashear said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells her officials will have water to release from Falls Lake Dam until the end of January.

Huffman and Mrs. Brashear don't believe the city will need to implement the next conservation stage, the water crisis stage, until 2009.