Politics & Government

Raleigh's drought plan needs revision

State water resource officials have notified Raleigh that its drought response plan submitted to them isn't good enough to meet the worst demands of a long dry spell.

Now, the city must revise the plan, which is activated during an extreme drought, and resubmit it to the state.

A 2008 drought law requires municipalities to submit drought plans and get them approved by the state. If plans don't meet the mark, the municipal water suppliers are required to use the state's default water conservation measures within 10 days of an extreme drought declaration.

Each plan from a municipal water supplier must have specific triggers for water conservation measures and a way to notify water users when conservation measures go into effect.

Plans also must identify specific responses to worsening categories of drought and outline enforcement measures.

Raleigh's plan lacks clear language about measures the city would take in an extreme drought, according to Tom Reader, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources.

"Saying 'we may do this' is not acceptable," Reader said. "The plan must say, 'we shall do this.'"

The city also lacked a clear plan to notify water users when drought measures would be enacted, Reader said.

But city officials say the state has blown this out of proportion.

The city was just submitting its current conservation plan for comments to see whether they were in compliance with the state, according to Robert Massengill, assistant public utilities director.

"Instead of sending informal comments, they decided to send an official letter and made a media stink that we're not in compliance," Massengill said.

Now the city knows what it needs to do, Massengill said.

"We'll be in good shape, and we'll comply, but they didn't give us a chance," he said.

Eleven other municipalities also received letters requiring them to revise their drought plans -- most of them in the western part of the state, scene of the worst drought conditions. They are: Biltmore Forest, Black Mountain, Brevard, Columbus, Hendersonville, Montreat, Polk County, Robbinsville, Tryon, Weaverville and Woodfin.

For now, no water systems in North Carolina are required to implement the state's water reduction measures because no part of North Carolina is experiencing extreme drought.