Council to vote on Stage Two water restrictions

February 5, 2008 9:29:03 AM PST
Last week's rains added a few days to Raleigh's usable water supply, but nothing more. Tuesday the Raleigh City Council is expected to vote to move into Stage Two restrictions by the middle of the month.

"It won't really affect the average customer," says Mary-Ann Baldwin of Raleigh's City Council. But Stage Two will affect the community as a whole.

The council will likely approve a provision of Stage Two requiring all future housing and commercial building projects to capture the water that is used to flush out and test new water connections. The water could then be reused.

That is a difficult, expensive process that has to be done before a building can lived in or worked in, and having it as a part of Stage Two rules may slow local construction.

"It is a logistical challenge, and it is rather inefficient," says Ed Buchan, Water Conservation Specialist for the Public Utilities Department.

Car washes that have not received special certification from the city will be closed under Stage Two. Many working in green industries, like landscaping, will continue to suffer.

"There will be a loss of livelihood in some instances, especially with middle class workers," Baldwin says. "But we're at the point where it hasn't rained, and we're just gonna have to bite the bullet."

As the drought lingers, Stage Two isn't the only thing on the minds of elected leaders.

They're talking about a Stage Three, which doesn't even exist right now.

"Everyone is very interested to know, what is the worst case scenario?" asks City Council Member Russ Stephenson.

In a hypothetical Stage Three, dishwashing in restaurants might be prohibited, requiring plastic or paper plates, cups and utensils.

Residents would be asked to go with paper and plastic dishware as well.

All businesses, regardless of what kind of operation they run, might be forced to cut usage by a certain amount.

It's unlikely, however, that Stage Three would include water rationing.

"When I think of rationing anyway, I think of, okay, you've got 50 gallons and we turn it off, and we cannot do that," Buchan says. "We don't have the ability or the manpower to go around and turn off water meters all the time."

Stage Two Water Restrictions

Raleigh is set to go to Stage Two Mandatory Conservation Measures should the water supply dip below 90 days.

The measures:

  • Prohibit the use of public water for irrigation;
  • Prohibit filling new swimming or wading pools. Water may be added to pools to maintain sanitary operating conditions. Filling of pools drained for repair is prohibited;
  • Prohibit washing vehicles at any location, except at car-washing facilities that have been certified by the City to be in compliance with the requirements of the conservation certification program. (The complete list is shown below.) A placard issued by the City must be displayed on the car wash. Also, the City may approve the washing of some vehicles for sanitary purposes (such as solid waste trucks);
  • Prohibit washing of areas such as sidewalks, patios, decks, driveways, parking lots, streets and exterior building surfaces, except for soiled areas for the maintenance of public health and sanitary conditions;
  • Require that leaking water services or plumbing must be repaired within 24 hours of written notification by the City's Public Utilities Director or service will be interrupted;
  • Prohibit the serving of drinking water in restaurants, except upon request;
  • Prohibit all non-essential use of water for commercial or public use;
  • Prohibit use of water-cooled air conditioners or other equipment that does not recycle cooling water, except when health and safety are adversely affected;
  • Requires innkeepers to ask guests spending more than one night to use their towels and bed linens more than once between laundering; and,
  • Directs commercial and industrial customers to review water uses and implement industry specific best management water conservation practices.

First violation of the Stage Two ordinance carries a fine of $1,000. Any recurrence of the violation may result in interruption of water service. There will be a two-week grace period during which the fine will be $250.


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