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OWASA Says July Rains Plentiful

July 11, 2008

By Beth Velliquette, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.

Jul. 11–CARRBORO — The N.C. Drought Monitor has indicated a worsening drought across the state, but so far in July at the OWASA water treatment plant, there’s already been more rain than usual this month.

“The good news is we’re getting summertime rain,” said Ed Holland, director of planning at OWASA. “Up here at the water plant, we’ve already gotten our July rainfall.”

The 30-year average for rainfall in July at the Jones Ferry Road water treatment plant is 4.4 inches, but already in July, with only a third of the month gone by, 5.05 inches of rain has fallen at the treatment plant.

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor for North Carolina as recently as July 3 indicated that Orange, Chatham, Alamance and Durham counties had moved from moderate to severe drought, but Thursday’s report indicated those counties had improved and been reclassified into the moderate category, with the exception of Chatham County, which was still in severe drought.

The weekly report was based on rainfall in the week ending at 8 a.m. Tuesday, and did not include Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s rains that fell later.

Rainfall at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant was 2.2 inches during June, about 50 percent below normal for the month, according to a memorandum written by Holland to the OWASA Board of Directors.

The memo was written July 2, but conditions have changed since then, Holland told the board Thursday night.

“The statistical risk of critical reservoir depletion remains minimal during the next 18 months, and OWASA’S overall water supply outlook is stronger than it was at this time in 2007,” Holland’s July 2 memo said.

“Staff recommends no change to the current Water Supply Advisory status at this time, but if severe or exceptional drought conditions persist, the declaration of a Stage One Water Shortage may be considered within the next few months,” said the memo, which was written before Thursday’s reclassification to moderate drought.

On OWASA’s Water Watch for Thursday, University Lake, Cane Creek Reservoir and Quarry Reservoir contained 2.868 billion gallons of water, or 80.4 percent of their combined capacities. The number of days of water supply remaining was estimated at 306 days based on average daily demand over the last 30 days, and without another drop of rain falling during that period.

Cane Creek Reservoir was about 4.5 feet below full on Thursday morning, and University Lake was only 7.5 inches below full.

OWASA board members joked that they put Cane Creek Reservoir in the wrong place because in the 24 hours before the water levels were measured on Thursday morning, 0.22 inches of rain fell at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant about 1.5 miles from University Lake, but only 0.04 inches fell at Cane Creek, about 10.5 miles from the plant.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.

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