Durham leaders want limits on water, growth

February 7, 2008 12:01:55 PM PST
The drought has Durham County commissioners voicing growing frustration with the City of Durham over the drought and growth.

For a second time Wednesday, commissioners said they could not get key information from city planners and water experts about the city's water supply and the city's continued growth.

The City chalks that up to a simple misunderstanding, but Durham County leaders are growing nervous as the drought grinds on. They say the Bull City needs to get serious about limits on water and growth.

"The citizens of this community are on edge," Ellen Reckhow, Durham County commissioner, said.

Wednesday commissioners had tough questions for the city -- like how bad does the drought have to get before Durham stops approving new development?

"Gee, that's a really hypothetical question," Durham City council member Mike Woodard said. "And it would be hard for me to give you an exact number, days of water left."

But county commissioners scolded city leaders for a water and growth report which assumes the city's population could now grow by another 77,000 new residents. That's based on the city's current water system and average rainfall.

"For us, as decision makers to making these decisions without better data is totally inappropriate," Reckhow said.

Commissioner Reckhow estimated between 2,000 to 3,000 living units are built in Durham County each year. But the city could not say how many homes are now approved but not yet hooked up to the city's water system.

"When's the water going to be available?" asked George Brine, planning commissioner. "I feel we need good numbers."

City leaders promised better information.

"They've got to be able to start counting this stuff and giving us that answer," council member Woodard said. "I need much more confidence in their ability to answer those basic questions for us."

But commissioners said residents are starting to resent the request to conserve as they see more construction.

"If you're going to approve all this new development, I'm going to start taking a shower again," one homeowner said.

The City of Durham says it has 209 days of water left. The City also says it will have more information for Durham County leaders in a month.


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