Drought highlights Meeker's address

RALEIGH The ongoing drought was topic number one as Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker delivered his annual State of the City address Monday afternoon at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Meeker told the crowd of city leaders and members of the Raleigh Rotary Club, which hosted the speech, that a report last week from the Army Corps of Engineers shows Raleigh could run out of water by July. Meeker called the situation "very, very serious" and urged everyone to do more to conserve.

He will be having an emergency meeting next week with the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss how much water is released downstream into the Neuse River and to discuss creating a "water budget" for Raleigh water.

"Once we have a water budget and we know how much we can use, whether it's 40 million gallons a day, 38 million gallons a day, 35 million gallons a day or some other figure, then I'll ask the council to take steps to get us on that budget so we have water this summer and this fall," Meeker says.

He continues to urge all homeowners to install low-flow showerheads and efficient toilets by March. Meeker also announced the formation of a Water Conservation Council, which will be led by two members of the Raleigh City Council. Its motto will be "every drop counts".

Despite the gloomy forecast and no real "doomsday" plan in the event the water supply truly ran dry, the mayor did sound an optimistic note with respect to the drought. "We will get through this," he told the crowd.

Meeker also talked about the need to improve public transportation in his address. He acknowledged that Charlotte has a very impressive light rail system from which Raleigh can learn. The mayor also spoke of the need to move quickly along with plans for an African-American Cultural Center which is set to be built near downtown. He also announced the creation of a public arts foundation, in which artists will be able to compete to have their art displayed publicly around town.

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