Forum focuses on water, economic future

May 13, 2008 5:09:03 PM PDT
The lakes in the Triangle are no longer in dire shape; in fact, most reservoirs are now completely full, but the lessons learned from the historic drought of 2007 and 2008 are still fresh in the minds of many.

They were the focus of a forum in Cary on Tuesday. The forum, titled, "Our Water, Our Economic Future -- Regional Cooperation, The Next Stage," was hosted by the Cary, Durham, Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Raleigh Chambers of Commerce.

Local water managers and elected leaders were among the participants.

Discussions focused on what caused the drought, where things stand now, and where communities plan to make changes to be better prepared for the next drought.

Raleigh's Public Utilities director said the drought was not caused by rapid growth in the area.

"I think it was logical for people to immediately jump to that the reason we're having to restrict water use and have a shortage of water supply in Falls Lake is because we've grown too fast," Utilities Director Dale Crisp said. "In fact it was because we had a historic drought."

Elected leaders from both Durham and Raleigh stressed the importance of learning from what happened last summer, fall and winter.

"We have to stay out in front of this issue, because it is a matter of life and death," said Durham Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden. "Unless we change our water conservation ethic, things will not change."

One thing that is changing out of the drought deals with the cost of water. Both Raleigh and Durham are poised to tiered rate systems, which charge more as water usage increases.

Durham's higher rates will go into effect within months; Raleigh's are more likely sometime early next year.

Both cities also plan to review their current watering rules and consider revisions for who is allowed to do what with respect to watering during droughts.

And both Raleigh and Durham are likely to adopt year-round lawn watering rules, restricting watering to certain days and perhaps certain hours even when reservoirs are full. The Town of Cary has had such rules in place for years.

"We cannot go back to the days when we allowed watering at will," Raleigh City Council member Mary-Ann Baldwin told Eyewitness News.


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