Cary could offer drought relief

February 13, 2008 6:02:00 PM PST
Even with Wednesday's rains, Falls lake in Wake County is still in terrible shape. So is Lake Michie in Durham County. If either primary water source for Raleigh or Durham goes dry, officials admit there's no real "fix-it" in place.

"There's not really a plan that if the lake is entirely empty, including the sediment layer, what you're left with then is just the run of the river," says Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker.

It's becoming increasingly clear that those Triangle cities may be counting on Cary, and its primary water source of Jordan Lake, to help out.

"We're looking at all of our options of working with other communities and just exactly what we could do," says Raleigh's Water Conservation Specialist Ed Buchan.

Jordan Lake, which provides water to Cary, Apex, Morrisville and parts of Chatham County, among other places, has more than a year's worth of water left.

The good news is that Cary appears ready to cooperate. "I'm glad we're not facing some of the troubles our neighbors are facing, but we're in a position -- we need to help," says Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht.

He says Cary will probably extend its ban on lawn watering, which is set to expire this month, even though the town technically doesn't need to. He points out that Governor Mike Easley has asked everyone to do his or her part, and that includes municipalities.

Now, Weinbrecht says, is no time to be hoarding h-two-oh. "We have to understand that Jordan Lake is not Cary's lake, it's the state's lake," he says. "It's a regional water source."

The problem is, bailing out other towns out is easier said than done.

Durham gets two million gallons a day from Jordan Lake, and under state law, it is allowed to get up to 10 million gallons per day from the lake. But it will have to build new piping systems if it wants to receive that much water.

Raleigh's position is even more challenging. Currently, the Capital City can give water to Cary, but can't receive it. "There is a pipeline as I understand it that is constructed between us and Cary," says Raleigh City Council member Nancy McFarlane.

But it only flows one direction, from Raleigh to Cary. New pipes and pumps will have to be put in place for the flow to go the other way.

Even then, Cary could probably send five million gallons a day to Raleigh. If Falls Lake is dry, that won't be enough. "If they do approach us, we would definitely consider helping them out," Weinbrecht says.

Chances are, they will be approaching Cary soon.


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