On an average day, the Corps releases about 35 million gallons a day downstream to provide drinking water to Smithfield, Golsboro and Kinston, among other towns. Tuesday, the Corps agreed to cut that by about 9%, or about 3.4 million gallons a day.
"Hopefully that will save more water at Falls Lake, that's the result," said Raleigh's Water Conservation Specialist Ed Buchan.
The smaller release downstream will have consequences, however. The full extent of the smaller release may not be known for some time.
It's gonna impact fisheries downstream," said Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks. "If I were a Johnston County resident, I would prefer to drink more clean water being released from Falls Dam as opposed to more of Raleigh's effluent from their wastewater treatment plant."
Water released downstream into the Neuse River includes both clean water from Falls Lake and wastewater. With less water from the lake, a higher percentage of the river's flow will be wastewater, Naujoks said.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, leaders pressed the Corps for answers as to how much more water could be kept in Falls Lake. Some council members are hoping the Corps can reduces releases by as much as 50%, or about 17 million gallons of water a day. Corps officials are not sure what impact that will have downstream, and they have to get permission from an Army general in Washington.
Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC), who attended the meeting, said he would act to try and communicate with that general.
"The circumstances of Raleigh are extraordinary. I understand the need about maintaining a flow, but Raleigh has urgent needs," Miller said.