As the Lake Norman area continues to experience drought conditions, Mooresville and other municipalities are asking water users to conserve what is becoming an increasingly limited resource.
The town is among nearly two dozen municipalities in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin that are recommending water restrictions until further notice, following months of limited rainfall and hot temperatures.
Though voluntary, the precautionary measures urge its water customers and private users “to do everything reasonably possible to conserve water,” town spokeswoman Kim Sellers said in a notice posted on its website late last month. They apply to indoor and outdoor water use, from limiting the use of faucets and sprinkler systems to spending no more than five minutes in the shower.
Entering its third week, the drought is the first one to materialize in the river basin in more than three years. The basin stretches from Grandfather Mountain, near Blowing Rock, to a lake near Columbia.
It has particularly affected three counties southwest of Iredell – Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln – that were experiencing severe drought conditions as of this past week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The federal index shows the rest of the western Piedmont as experiencing moderate conditions.
The requests to conserve water are advised by the Catawba-Wateree Drought Management Advisory Group, which raised its rating of the severity of the drought in the river basin July 20.
Created in 2006 as part of a relicensing process for Duke Energy’s Catawba-Wateree Hydroelectric Project, the advisory panel classifies the severity of droughts in stages from 0 to 4, taking into account levels of reservoirs and how much is flowing into them as well as the federal drought index.
In response to such conditions, the panel arranges conference calls with stakeholders, including representatives of municipalities and public water suppliers in the river basin, as well as state and federal agencies. The next one is scheduled for Aug. 11, said Jennifer Jabon, a spokeswoman for Duke, which is also part of the panel.
The region is currently in Stage 1, according to the panel’s rating system. Should water levels continue falling, it would enter Stage 2, prompting mandatory water conservation.
“The sooner we start conserving, the better for our region,” Barry McKinnon, public utilities director for Mooresville, said in a news release last month.
The region has seen a number of droughts over the years. The worst one on record happened in 2007-08, reaching Stage 3 conditions.
But even though the current drought has yet to severely affect Mooresville’s public water supply – the fountains at Hope Park are still flowing, using well water, and the Mooresville Golf Course is still soaking up water from the sprinkler system fed by a pond there – its effects are noticeable.
“Most residents would know if they look at their grass, or if they drive by the lake,” said Sellers, the town spokeswoman.
In a news release late last month, Duke asked residents pulling water from the nearly dozen lakes in the river basin to limit watering their properties to two days per week, and it has closed two of the four boat ramps on Allison Creek, on Lake Wylie. The Charlotte-based utility company manages the lakes as part of a federal license.
Although the water restrictions are not enforced, Mooresville has in place one requirement: that owners of sprinkler systems use them only for watering their lawns during the morning and evening hours. The rule does not apply to those who regularly sell plants, shrubs and the like, Sellers said.
“We are still at the stage where we are asking people, ‘Please be conscious of how you can conserve water,’” Sellers said. “All we can do is continue to put the message out there.”
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: email@example.com.