July 30, 2008

Cutbacks in Water Use Urged Low Flow in Yadkin Again Spurs Need to Conserve, Official Says

By Wesley Young, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

Jul. 30--With water flow in the Yadkin River approaching low levels not seen since the 2002 drought, the City-County Utilities Division is asking residents, businesses and institutions to voluntarily conserve water until further notice.

The Yadkin River supplies 80 percent of Forsyth County's water. Ron Hargrove, the deputy director of the utilities division, said that the river's flow in July has averaged 553 cubic feet a second -- one-third of the normal flow of 1,659 cubic feet a second.

"These infrequent storms we get might green up the grass, but they don't put enough water into the ground to keep the river flowing like it normally does," Hargrove said. "We are experiencing flows like we did in 2002. The August 2002 average was about 400 cubic feet per second; if conditions persist, we might even see lower levels than we did in 2002."

The flow yesterday was about 270 cubic feet a second, he said.

Under voluntary restrictions, people are being asked to limit watering of lawns and plants to no more than an hour a day and to avoid watering between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Other recommendations include repairing leaky faucets and toilets and turning off taps when shaving, brushing teeth or washing dishes. Washing machines and dishwashers should be run only with full loads, the utilities division said, and the washing of vehicles should also be limited.

Residents are also being asked to avoid hosing down sidewalks, patios and driveways, and to avoid filling swimming pools.

The U.S. Drought Monitor lists Forsyth, Davidson, Davie, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties among 14 in North Carolina that are experiencing extreme drought, the second-highest level of drought intensity.

Alleghany, Ashe, Stokes and Surry counties are experiencing severe drought, the third-highest level of drought. Altogether, 94 of the state's 100 counties have some form of drought, and the remaining six are listed as abnormally dry.

Voluntary reductions in water use are back in effect after being lifted in April after last summer's drought. The county does have a storehouse of water in W. Kerr Scott Reservoir in Wilkes County, where water levels are only a foot and a half below full.

If conditions become bad enough, the utilities division could ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release more water, as was done in 2002.

But with lower-than-normal rainfall expected this fall, Hargrove said, the utilities division wants to conserve as much of the reservoir's water as possible. He wouldn't rule out mandatory restrictions if conditions persist.

"We may ask folks to do more," he said. "We have never implemented mandatory restrictions, and I have been here 15 years."

Wesley Young can be reached at 727-7369 or at [email protected]


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