Charlotte asks for water conservation

The river bottom was exposed in a Catawba River cove earlier this month.
The river bottom was exposed in a Catawba River cove earlier this month. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte’s water utility asked for voluntary water conservation Monday as drought indicators worsened in the Catawba River basin.

Above-average heat and generally dry weather put the river basin at Stage 1, the second of five steps in a water-saving priority plan, a drought management panel said.

The basin hasn’t been at that drought stage since December 2011. It had not been at the first stage until Monday.

The basin runs from the North Carolina mountains to near Columbia.

Charlotte Water asked customers to conserve water indoors and out.

Specific steps include irrigating lawns and gardens only on Tuesdays and Saturdays between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., not filling pools and turning off ornamental water features such as fountains.

Conservation will become mandatory if the Catawba basin moves to Stage 2 or higher.

For now, two of the three indicators that trigger drought stages have worsened as the region moves into the thick of the summer, said the Catawba-Wateree Drought Management Advisory Group.

The amount of water stored in the 11 Catawba reservoirs continues to drop. And streamflows that feed the lakes are well below normal.

Charlotte’s rainfall is 4.7 inches below normal for the year, the National Weather Service said. The average temperature during June was 4.8 degrees above normal, and July is running nearly 3 degrees hotter than usual.

A second drought index, the U.S. Drought Monitor, places most of the basin in moderate drought. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts drought will persist or intensify in the Catawba basin through October.

The Catawba-Wateree drought panel, which represents municipal water users and Catawba manager Duke Energy, placed the basin at the first stage of drought earlier this month.

Temperatures in Charlotte will stay in the 90s this week, the weather service said, with a chance of thunderstorms.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender