The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday December 5th

Area Water Use Dropped 29 Percent in September

Water restrictions will stay in place

In September, 8.2 million gallons of water were used daily, down from 11.5 million gallons in August.

OWASA Executive Director Ed Kerwin said he has been pleased with the response to the drought from the community.

"Customers have done a good job watching their usage," he said. "Now we have to look indoors."

OWASA banned the use of its water outdoors Sept. 9 following a board of directors decision to enact emergency water measures.

The goal of the tightened restrictions was to reduce overall water use by 25 percent, a goal consumers exceeded last month.

But outdoors is where the feasible enforcement of OWASA's authority ends.

"We can't control what people do with water in their own homes for the most part," Kerwin said. "All we can do is attempt to educate our customers and hope they stay vigilant."

While the drop in consumption is a big step in OWASA's battle against the drought, the utility's reservoirs are still projected to go dry in 2003. Kerwin said things may get worse before they get substantially better.

"We're not going to run out in December at this point," he said. "But we might by spring or summer. The situation is still very serious."

Cane Creek Reservoir, OWASA's main supplier, is 18 feet below capacity, a new record that is bested every day with no rainfall.

University Lake, a smaller OWASA reservoir, is 4 feet 9 inches below capacity.

If the rate of consumption remains steady, OWASA has 144 days of water left.

Kerwin said OWASA consumers need to take a hard look at their indoor water use and determine where they can make cuts.

"We need people to look at what they're doing in the kitchen or bathroom or dorm room and try to reduce usage," he said.

Taking shorter showers, washing dishes only when necessary, looking for water-efficient appliances and installing low-flush toilets are just some of the ways officials encourage customers to conserve.

Kerwin said UNC, which accounts for more than 30 percent of OWASA water use, has acted in a responsible manner in doing its share for water conservation.

"We've been very happy with their efforts," he said.

Kerwin said the board would be discussing further ways to combat the drought at its regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday.

"The board will be looking at possibly offering incentives for businesses and individuals who change toilets. We'll be talking about purchasing water from other communities as well," he said. "That's just a part of a whole long list of options we're looking at."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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