Durham North Carolina Area Facing Severe Water Shortage

Add central North Carolina to the list of knowledge work "boom" areas facing the limits to growth imposed by an increasingly severe drought. The Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill area looks to be facing a drought serious enough to have economic consequences. More on that down-post.

Durham, with just 59 days left in its main water supply, could be on the front lines of this worst-case scenario. Up to now, the prospect has been too far-fetched to entertain in detail, which is why there are few specifics in Durham ordinances about what would happen if the drought doesn't let up. Raleigh also lacks a set plan for an end-times-type drought.

Durham would ban industrial water use -- a potentially devastating economic blow. It would hit water-driven businesses such as car washes and laundries directly but also could force businesses to cut shifts or even lay off workers.

Residential water would be rationed, but it's unknown how that would be implemented. Limiting water service to certain hours a day or dropping water pressure are possibilities.

On Monday, the city moves to Stage IV "severe mandatory" restrictions. Most outdoor irrigation is banned; hand-watering is allowed a few hours a week. Fines of $400 or more can be imposed on violators. Businesses must submit reports to the city that show all they're doing to cut their water consumption in half.

...Duke University, Durham County's largest water user, already has taken this step in its dining halls, trading china for throwaway plates.

We wonder if those throw-aways at Duke and in company cafeterias are compostable?

Major employers in the area include the following, via Community Link

Major Area Employers
(Includes Raleigh, Wake County and Research Triangle Park)

ABB, Inc.
Cisco Systems
City of Raleigh
First Citizens Bank & Trust Company
Food Lion Stores
Freight Handlers Inc.
GlaxoSmithKline Inc.
GlaxoSmithKline Inc. – Zebulon
Harris Teeter
International Business Machines (IBM)
Kroger Stores
Longistics
Lowe’s
Lowes Foods
Misys Healthcare Systems
Nationwide Insurance Company
The News & Observer Publishing Co.
North Carolina State University
Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc.
Powerware Corporation
Progress Energy
Rex Healthcare
RTI International
SAS Institute
State of North Carolina
Tri-Arc Food Systems / Bojangles
United Parcel Service
U.S. EPA Environmental Research Center
Verizon Wireless
Wachovia Bank N.A.
Wake County
Wake County Public School System
Wake Technical Community College
WakeMed
Waste Industries Inc.

The way economic consequences will unfold, in a worst-case scenario, is that large firms with operations in the Triangle area, looking at the need to consolidate for the usual reasons - the typical ones are shrinking market share, reduced sales, higher operating expenses, shifts in currency valuations, and organization of the labor force - will view local water restrictions or even the prospect of water limits as an added reason to mothball or slow down operations. They'll never come right out and say a closure is 'because of the drought' because, legitimately, it's always a multi-faceted decision.

State and local government will be left holding the bag on incentives and loans granted to induce those industries to locate there in the first place. And, the chance to re-fill vacant operations is zero until the drought fully passes and a foregoing, serious effort made to manage regional water resources in a sustainable manner. Hopefully, that doesn't mean business as usual after the rains return, with cheap water touted as a development incentive.

Via::The News Observer, "Durham may face water crisis first. Bull City, Raleigh have few pat rules if drought gets worse."

Tags: Drought | North Carolina