N.C. Governor Wants to Drought-Proof State

Gov. Mike Easley recently presented a plan to modernize North Carolina's public water systems, mandate water conservation and efficiency, and upgrade the response to water emergencies.

''This legislation will help North Carolina's public water systems improve their services to customers and be better prepared to deal with future droughts, but we also need to change our attitude about using water in North Carolina,'' said Easley. ''We cannot let up on our conservation efforts and that is why I am announcing a public awareness effort to encourage citizens to save as much water as possible now, make water conservation a way of life in North Carolina and make our state drought proof.''

The governor also unveiled a Web site, SaveWaterNC.org, aimed at continued water conservation.
Easley's legislative proposals include:

• The development of water shortage plans by local water systems as well as regular audits for leak detection and needed repairs. The systems need to move toward conservation-based pricing to be eligible for state funds for improvement projects.

• Funding for projects to manage water supplies during a drought, such as interconnections for drought-prone communities; leak detection; upgrades to meters and metering systems to help homeowners and agencies more closely and accurately monitor water consumption; and water re-use facilities that use treated wastewater for landscape irrigation, industrial uses, and other appropriate purposes.

• A detailed and up-to-date map that shows all water system interconnections, alternative water supplies, groundwater status, and other information from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the state's environmental agency.

• Enhanced enforcement to be sure that business that use more than 100,000 gallons a day register as required, including penalties for willful non-compliance.
The legislation also would improve the state's ability to respond to water emergencies, including giving the governor more power to take action prior to a declaration of a public health and safety emergency.

The governor's bill also would create staffing and funding for an Office of Water Conservation and Efficiency in the state environmental agency to more effectively oversee all water policy, planning and conservation efforts.

''April is the month when water systems statewide begin seeing increased water use due to the growing season and rising temperatures that cause more evaporation, so we need to continue saving water every way we can,'' Easley said.

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