Easley pushes for major water changes

March 12, 2008 10:16:37 AM PDT
Gov. Mike Easley is making a push Tuesday for major changes to the way North Carolina handles droughts, changes he says are necessary due to an antiquated water system statewide.

"We currently believe we have a 19th century water system in the 21st century," Easley said this morning at a news conference in downtown Raleigh. He was joined by Bryan Beatty, secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety, and Bill Ross, secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. .

Easley laid out a three-pronged plan he hopes legislators will act upon when they return to Raleigh for a special session in May. .

Easley's three main points:

  • To modernize the state's 600 public water systems.
  • To upgrade emergency response to drought.
  • To allow the state to mandate conservation.
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"What we need the public to do is conserve, conserve and conserve," Easley said.

As for some specifics, the governor wants to change North Carolina's building code so that new home and business construction must have water efficient fixtures.

He also wants to eliminate rate structures that cut the price of water as more is used.

"People who want to use more water should pay more for it," Secretary Ross said.

The governor also wants his office to have more power during droughts. Right now, the governor can't do much during a drought until there's a public health and safety emergency. Easley wants the authority to order one water system to provide water to neighboring communities.

"We are asking law to be changed to order one community to have to give to another," said Beatty.

Also under the plan, local water agencies facing extreme or exceptional drought would have the authority to impose mandatory water conservation measures on not only their water customers, but also those in their area who use private wells.

Easley's proposal includes incentives for individual North Carolinians to conserve as well.

"We have heard from citizens that some of their neighbors are not willing to install water-saving devices in their homes," Beatty said. "Therefore, we're gonna be asking for a sales-tax holiday for the purchase of water-saving devices and appliances."

All the proposals are aimed at a very lofty goal.

"We want to make North Carolina drought proof so if we have an additional problem like this two years down the road we won't run into the same problems that we're running into this time," Easley said.

The state has also made numerous efficiency upgrades throughout its buildings.

To date, water efficiency upgrades have been completed in 49 state government buildings in Raleigh. Those upgrades are expected to cut water consumption by one million gallons.

"People have to take water conservation more seriously," Easley said. "The level of conservation now is not going to get the job done. More is needed."

Improvements include:

  • Installation of 1,035 aerators to reduce the flow of water from faucets;
  • Replacement of 58 toilet tanks to save 1.9 gallons per flush;
  • Installation of 750 water-reducing devices in toilet flush valves, cutting water use by 1.1 gallons per flush, from 3.5 gallons to 2.4 gallons per flush;
  • Installation of 212 water-reducing devices in urinals, reducing water use by 2.5 gallons per flush, from 3.5 gallons to 1.0 gallon per flush; and
  • Continuous monitoring of water consumption in state buildings for early detection and repair of leaks and to address other issues related to efficiency of water systems.

The state has also launched a new Web site, SaveWaterNC.org. It offers ways to conserve water and highlights businesses that have water saving methods in place.

According to the City of Raleigh Pub. Utilities Dept, there are 259 days of water supply pool currently in storage at Falls Lake.


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