Council approves Stage Two water restrictions

February 5, 2008 7:40:02 PM PST
Raleigh water customers will be facing the toughest watering restrictions the city has on the books by the end of next week. In a unanimous 8 to 0 vote Tuesday afternoon, the Raleigh City Council voted to enact Stage 2 rules on February 15.

The vote came in front of a packed council chamber filled with hundreds of green industry workers who hoped city leaders would either reconsider or exempt them from the rules. Many in that industry, which includes nurseries, irrigation contractors, landscapers and the like, say they have already been adversely affected by Stage 1 rules. They fear Stage 2 could be catastrophic.

"It'll put us out of business," says Phil Campbell, owner of a nursery in Raleigh. Campbell brought several flowers to a protest that took place outside City Hall before the meeting, saying she couldn't sell them because customers don't think they'll be able to keep plants alive under the watering rules.

Council members seemed to have their minds made up to move to Stage 2 prior to the meeting, but several mentioned it was not a decision that came easily.

"I think we all feel pretty horrible about having to go there, but we have to," councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said.

Stage 2 rules don't affect the average water customer all that much. Hand-held hose watering and drip irrigation are completely banned. Power washing is outlawed altogether as well. Filling new swimming or wading pools is prohibited.

Only car wash facilities that have been certified for conserving water by the Public Utilities Department can remain open. So far, about 40 have been certified.

One industry that received some exemption from Stage 2 rules is the building industry. Under previously-written Stage 2 rules, new water mains for homes and commercial buildings could not be filled, flushed and tested. Such mains have to be tested before those homes and buildings can be occupied. Builders lobbied for and received an exemption.

The Stage 2 rules passed today create a clause that allows new mains to be tested if the water used in the testing is "completely captured" in tanker trucks and then hauled off to the city's E.M. Johnson Water Plant. In other words, if builders can test the new mains in such a way that no water is wasted, they will be allowed to test, and new homes would be livable.

That testing is an expensive, difficult process, however. Some builders may not be able to afford it, and construction across the area could slow down.

City officials acknowledge Stage 2 may not save an incredible amount of water. One source tells Eyewitness News Stage 2 might save as much as 2 million gallons of water a day. That is a significant amount, but it amounts to about 5 percent of daily usage right now.

Still, the mayor says every gallon counts.

"Every gallon that's saved in February, March and April is a gallon we'll have in June, July and August when it's hot," Mayor Charles Meeker said. "And if the conditions persist we're gonna need every gallon we have in that lake."

Stage Two Water Restrictions

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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