Drought and Neuse River concerns

February 5, 2008 7:28:20 PM PST
Raleigh and six other Wake County towns are in a huge water crisis because Falls Lake is at historic lows.

However next summer, more water will flow out of Falls Lake every day, than will be used by Raleigh.

City leaders want the federal government to stop that, but environmentalists are crying foul.

As of Tuesday, the city of Raleigh said it has only 110 day supply of water left at Falls Lake.

Water keeps flowing out of Falls Dam to fill a living Neuse River below and provide clean water for residents of Johnston County. But now the Army Corp of Engineers and city of Raleigh want to tighten the tap at the dam.

"Extend the amount of storage we have behind Falls Lake as long as we can," U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Terry Brown said.

The new plan is to cut the water flow from Falls Dam in half during the spring and summer months.

"Just trying to throw out a number to get stake holders thinking about what we could do," Brown said. "The Corp has admitted they are going to make this decision based on no scientific basis."

The Neuse River Keeper, the river's biggest environmental advocate, blasted the proposal. Saying Raleigh should have adopted stricter conservation rules long before the federal government considers cutting the river flow in half.

Less fresh water from Falls Lake also means more of Johnston County's drinking water will come from Raleigh's treated waste-water which is put into the Neuse further downstream.

"I know citizens in Johnston County would prefer to have clean water from Falls Dam being discharged downstream as opposed to drinking Raleigh's waste-water," Dean Naujoks with the Neuse River Foundation said. "Residents in Johnston County are not even aware that they are going to make this decision."

But Johnston County officials appear to support the plan, saying less water now, is better than no water later.

"The water is monitored. And personally, I don't see a problem with it," Smithfield Utilities Director Earl Botkin said.

The Army Corp of Engineers has cut back on its Falls Dam water release before, during other droughts. But never as much as what they are thinking now.

Still the savings to Raleigh would only be an extra three to four weeks of water. But that is weeks, Raleigh and Johnston County water users now fear they may not have later.


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