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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

AUGUST 19, 2002 


CHARLOTTE – Facing relentless drought conditions and lake levels that continue to drop along the Catawba River, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities officials and elected leaders announced today that countywide mandatory water restrictions are necessary to protect future water supplies while drought conditions persist.

Effective Wednesday, August 21, 2002, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities customers will be under Level 1 Mandatory Restrictions. That means:

>The use of lawn sprinkler devices and/or irrigation systems is prohibited between the hours of 4 a.m. and 9 p.m. Customers observed violating this rule are subject to fines ranging from $30 to $100 per day, depending on their meter size.

·>All other requests for conservation remain VOLUNTARY at this stage, which means customers are ASKED to conserve any way they can by:

1. Watering lawns no more than once per week 
2. Refraining from washing vehicles by hand
3. Watering shrubs and trees no more than twice per month
4. Watering flowers and plants sparingly (use a watering can)
5. Not filling or re-filling pools, fountains or ornamental ponds; and
6. Reducing the amount of water used for dust control, street or exterior surface cleaning and other non-essential uses.

Charlotte City Manager Pam Syfert issued the mandatory declaration this afternoon based on her authority to impose restrictions under the City’s conservation ordinance and an official recommendation from Utilities Director Doug Bean. The City’s agreements with Mecklenburg County and the towns of Matthews, Mint Hill, Pineville, Davidson, Huntersville and Cornelius make the ordinance effective and enforceable throughout the county. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers will assist Utilities staff in enforcing the mandatory lawn watering rules.

“Our recent requests for stronger voluntary conservation have resulted in roughly a four percent reduction in water demand during the past month,” Bean said during a Monday afternoon news conference at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. “We truly appreciate those who have helped out so far, but we need to use even less. Our rules are simple; we still have the chance to achieve our water use reduction goals without having to impose more stringent measures.”

Standing alongside Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory, Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners Chair Parks Helms, other elected leaders and officials from Duke 
Power, Bean explained that Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s water demand goal is to keep water demand under 130 million gallons per day (mgd), and that water demands need to remain under 140 mgd on any given day – regardless of temperature or lack of rainfall – to prevent the need for further mandatory restrictions. 
Subsequent water restriction levels are still being developed but would likely include:

Level 2: Restricting lawn-watering to one day per week & only between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Level 3: Prohibiting any lawn-watering and nearly all other outdoor water use.

All three levels of mandatory restrictions are geared toward eliminating the community’s biggest source of water waste – excessive summertime lawn-watering. Enforcement of Level 1 mandatory measures begins after 4 a.m. Wednesday. Customers with water conservation questions or concerns may contact the WaterSmart hotline at 704-432-2000.

As mandatory takes effect this week, Bean noted that some customers may apply for and receive permits exempting them from restrictions based on public health and safety needs or economic hardship. But he said very few exceptions should be necessary under Level 1 restrictions, since daytime watering is the only mandatory restriction that will be enforced.

The move to mandatory in Mecklenburg comes one month after Utilities moved its Water Watch Index to ‘Critical’ and stepped up its requests for voluntary conservation on July 23. That request followed a series of drought-related developments including N.C. Governor Mike Easley’s July 12 appeal for cities to impose mandatory restrictions in a 54-county Piedmont region suffering from more than four years of drought.

Duke Power, which manages Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s two drinking water sources on the Catawba – Mountain Island Lake and Lake Norman – has stated for several weeks that the two reservoirs are weathering the drought better than many others along other river basins, including the Yadkin-Pee Dee and the Cape Fear. However, energy officials are concerned that all lake levels are dropping at a faster rate now – particularly at Lake Norman, which is losing six inches per week. If current conditions persist, and short of heavy, sustained rainfalls – Duke has said lake levels will reach a point where power generation and water intakes could be affected.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities is a department of the City of Charlotte, providing drinking water and wastewater services to more than 700,000 people all over the county. Its customers have faced mandatory water restrictions only once before, during the summer of 1986.

“We have avoided mandatory rules in recent years thanks to Duke Power’s excellent lake management of a wonderful water resource, good water facilities planning, and our WaterSmart education program started in June 2000,” Bean said. “These mandatory measures are necessary because we simply can’t control the drought. But we can stretch our water supply over the long haul by shutting off those sprinklers and cutting back any way we can.” 

CONTACT: Vic Simpson, Public Information Specialist
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities 704-391-5065

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