N.C. Governor Asks Local Officials to Impose Water Restrictions

N.C. Gov. Mike Easley is asking local officials who have not already implemented water conservation measures in their cities and counties to do so immediately as the drought continues to worsen across the state. He is sending a letter to mayors and county commissioners in counties that operate public water systems. Ninety-three of the state’s 100 counties are now experiencing exceptional, extreme or severe drought.

“I am calling on all public officials in North Carolina who have not already enacted local ordinances for either voluntary or mandatory water conservation to do so immediately,” said Easley. “Public water systems are continuing to have near maximum water demands every day of the week because of the hot, dry weather and there seems to be no relief to the drought in sight.”

The drought map released September 6 by the federal Drought Monitor shows extreme drought has spread to 66 counties from the Piedmont to the Coastal Plain and severe drought covers 20 counties all the way to the Outer Banks. Seven counties in northeastern North Carolina are listed as experiencing moderate drought, the least serious of the four-category federal drought system.

A low pressure weather system in the Atlantic Ocean could bring some rain to the eastern part of the state this weekend, but would likely not result in enough to alleviate the drought. Agricultural and meteorological authorities says the state needs more than 15 inches of rain in the next couple of months to make up for significantly low river and stream flows, groundwater supplies and reservoir levels that have been depleted during the drought.

Easley said he is pleased to see that many municipalities are heeding his earlier calls for water conservation but everyone needs to conserve more since the situation will likely get worse before it gets better. Of the public water supply systems the state tracks, 64 have put mandatory water use restrictions in place due to drought and another 53 have imposed voluntary restrictions. State officials track all government-owned systems, privately-owned systems with 1,000 or more service connections or serving 3,000 or more people, and privately-owned systems on voluntary or mandatory restrictions. T

he lowest-ever average August stream flow was recorded last month at 13 monitoring stations, including nine in central North Carolina, two sites in the coastal plain and two sites in the mountains, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. All of the sites have been monitored for at least 35 years and most for more than 50 years, the survey reported. In addition, August stream flows at 17 monitoring stations, most of which are in eastern North Carolina, are lower than those measured during the drought from 1998 to 2002.

The governor continues to direct state agencies in all 100 counties to stop non-essential water use and asks all citizens to cut back their water consumption by 20 percent.

Last month, Easley asked the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to declare most of the state a federal disaster area due to crop losses caused by the drought. Information gathered by the U.S. Farm Service Agency shows 85 counties have at least one covered crop with a 30 percent or greater reduction in normal yield.

The governor has also issued an executive order waiving certain highway size and weight restrictions for trucks to help with drought relief efforts for farmers. The order allows vehicles transporting hay or water along North Carolina roadways to drought-stricken counties to exceed the normal size and weight restrictions.

The N.C. Division of Forest Resources has imposed a statewide ban on open burning and cancelled all burning permits because dried out vegetation increases the danger of forest fires. More than 5,300 fires have already burned an excess of 30,000 acres in North Carolina this year. Reduced water levels have forced the closing of some recreational facilities at state lakes.

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