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Water conservation falls short of the mark

By Staff
Maybe an old-fashioned rivalry can do something that Gov. Mike Easley can’t.
On Oct. 23 Easley issued a call for all North Carolina residents to reduce water consumption by 50 percent by Halloween. No city met his goal, but all of the larger systems were able to make some cuts.
A second challenge came out Saturday. N.C. State University issued the call to out conserve the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Wolfpack issued the challenge and it began with Saturday’s football game between the Tar Heels and State. The opening round had N.C. State turning back the water pressure on the toilets at Carter-Finley Stadium so they would use less water. With 60,000 people in the stands, and using the bathroom, it was at least a token effort.
N.C. State has already cut water consumption from an August level of 1.2 million gallons a day on the main and Centennial campuses down to about 800,000 gallons this month. The challenge lasts until February, when the two schools meet on the basketball court.
UNC reported a 25 percent annual reduction in water use recently to UNC system president Erskine Bowles.
A 25 percent drop is nothing to sneeze at, but unless North Carolina gets some significant rainfall the situation could go from bad to worse.
Easley’s words may not have held much weight in Beaufort County. We are one of the few blessed by the bountiful resources of the Castle Hayne aquifer and for now, it shows no signs of being threatened.
Washington’s water usage fluctuates pretty wildly. One day city customers used 1.9 million gallons and then two days later the demand topped 3 million gallons. It’s hard to tell if that’s just by chance or if local customers are really listening to the call to conserve.
Easley’s “naughty or nice” list shows Charlotte-Mecklenburg customers used nearly 37 percent less water. Asheville customers were down just 11 percent.
Easley is getting ready for the worst.
Meanwhile, the water monitoring will continue and Easley will continue to report on who is cutting back and who isn’t.
In fact, the odds are it won’t.
The chance of getting 24 inches of rain over the next three months, enough to end the drought, is less than 4 percent. Falls Lake, which provides drinking water to Raleigh and Wake County, is more than 8 feet below normal. That means only 36 percent of the lake’s water supply remains.
At first Easley’s call for a 50 percent reduction appeared like a pipe dream. The reality is, his goal may not be high enough.