The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday December 5th

Heavy Rainfall Aids Drought Situation

Water conservation efforts are still in place

University Lake and Cane Creek, the two reservoirs Orange Water and Sewer Authority draws from, increased in their overall levels from about 34 percent full Friday morning to 56 percent full by 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, an OWASA press release stated.

University Lake, by far the smaller of the two with a 450 million gallon capacity, rose to within 3 inches of full after being 4 feet 7 inches under its limits. Cane Creek, which is about six times larger than University Lake, was 18 feet below full and rose 6 feet to rest at 12 feet under capacity.

The drenching rain was a welcome sight for the area but not the end of OWASA's water problems, said the utility's executive director, Ed Kerwin.

"We're much, much improved," he said. "(Friday's) rain helped us out a whole lot."

Kerwin said despite the rain, the drought is yet to be beaten and customers must continue to conserve water wherever possible. "Responsible use of water is good practice year 'round, in a drought or not," he said.

The water emergency restrictions in place for the area, which do not allow for any outdoor water use except for firefighting, were enacted in other areas nearby, including Durham and Wake counties. Officials in those areas say their residents might see a relaxation of their restrictions in the near future. Kerwin said OWASA will make its decision based on what is good for OWASA and its customers, not moves by other water authorities.

"We're going to do what we need to do based on our situation, not what anyone else does," he said.

Kerwin said it's too early to tell if restrictions would be relaxed as a result of the weekend's weather. Nothing will be changed unless decided by Kerwin or OWASA's board of directors. The next regularly scheduled meeting for the board is Oct. 24.

Kerwin said he will not move until he's satisfied with the data concerning the flow to the area's reservoirs.

"I just can't say right now, we'll have to see," he said. "It's going to take some time to evaluate what's happening with streamflow, and we're just going to take the time we need to make a good choice."

The rain hit an area that has not seen such precipitation in quite some time. Going without rain for extended periods makes the ground less able to absorb sudden runoff, and Friday's deluge caused widespread minor flooding, with some major problems reported in a few localized areas.

Employees of several businesses within the Eastgate Shopping Center, fearing a repeat of the damaging flooding in the shopping complex in 2000, scrambled to move merchandise at the sight of the Eastgate parking lot going underwater. A manhole on Umstead Road near Airport Road overflowed, spilling what OWASA officials reported as untreated wastewater into the street. A raging Bolin Creek nearby slowed OWASA personnel in controlling the spillage.

Several other flooding incidents were reported to authorities all over the county.

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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