Overview of Water Quantity Issues
North Carolina needs better water management!
Clean water is essential for life. Abundant rivers have been a key, if often overlooked, contributor to North Carolina’s economy and quality of life, used for energy generation, drinking, and recreation.
In 2007 and 2008, North Carolina experience one of the worst droughts in recent years. The lack of rain was compounded by increased demands for water from the Catawba River, which makes us more vulnerable to the consequences of drought. (The photo to the right shows the water intake for the Town of Belmont on Lake Wylie in November 2007.) As North Carolina’s population swells by an estimated 2 million people over the next 15 years, many communities will face tough choices about water use. Based upon current trends we could run out of water within the next 30 years during "normal" years, not just during droughts.
The water use that results in the largest net loss of water from the Catawba basin is cooling water for power plants.
Most individuals do not realize that more water is used to generate power for their home than is directly used in the household. (For more information about the energy-water collision, click here.) Thus, any plan to reduce water use should address methods of reducing the amount of water used to cool power plants.
The time to start making changes and planning for future water shortages is now. A few sensible changes now in the way we manage water can go a long way to ensure we retain a strong economy and healthy environment.
We are urging state leaders to:
(1) Require efficient use of water. North Carolina can take significant steps forward in water use efficiency. In 2000 (the most recent federal data), North Carolinians used an estimated 177 gallons of water per capita per day; the most efficient states used between 109 -137 gallons. More efficient water use means existing supplies can reach further, and also saves money: businesses and residents can spend less on water, and local governments can spend less on expanding the capacity of water supply and treatment systems. Governor Michael Easley has called for greater water efficiency in new residential and commercial buildings; we urge the state legislature to adopt efficiency standards for new construction.
(2) Link growth decisions to water supplies. No matter how efficiently we use water, we’ll eventually run into problems if we approve more residential and commercial water use than supplies can meet during a drought. Unfortunately, state law does not link growth decisions to available water supplies. Local governments in rapidly growing counties are continually trying to catch up with the needs created by development – for new schools, police and fire stations, and water supplies. We are urging the state legislature to require that local governments, before approving new development, make sure that water supplies and system capacity will be adequate to meet the new demand even in dry years.
(3) Support rainwater capture. Some years North Carolina doesn’t get enough water; other years, we get way too much, causing flooding. While some flooding is natural, we’ve made it worse by paving over large areas of the state, causing water to run off immediately rather than soaking in to recharge groundwater supplies. There’s one solution that helps with both drought and flooding: rainwater capture – in rain barrels, cisterns, or rain gardens – keeps water around when we need it for a dry spell, and reduces flooding downstream during stormy weather. We urge the state legislature to provide incentives and cost-share funding to promote rainwater capture across the state.
Support a wise water future for
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP PROTECT THE CATAWBA RIVER AND WATEREE RIVER, CLICK HERE.