Salisbury files drought plan with the state
By Kathy chaffin and Mark Wineka
Salisbury officials say they have submitted a water shortage response plan after the N.C. Division of Water Resources notified the city this week that it had failed to send the plan in time.
Jeff Jones, planning and research manager for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, sent the city’s response by e-mail and attachments to the N.C. Division of Water Resources on Thursday morning.
On the same day, the Division of Water Resources sent out a press release saying it had notified 55 water systems, including Salisbury and East Spencer, which had not submitted an updated water shortage response plan.
By not doing so, the jurisdictions would have to implement the state’s default water-use reduction measures because of a new drought law, state authorities said.
“They now have it, and we’re no longer on the list,” said Doug Paris, assistant to the Salisbury city manager.
Jim Behmer, interim director for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, said Friday the city thought it had until Sept. 1 to submit the plan.
“We had it on file,” Behmer said.
Water shortage response plans are required from local governments and large community water systems to describe how the water system would respond to drought and other emergencies to continue to meet public water supply needs.
As directed by the General Assembly, the state Environmental Management Commission required municipal water systems to update their water shortage response plans in 2007 and submit them on July 1, 2008, along with their 2007 local water supply plans.
“We will comply with what the state wants,” City Manager David Treme said Friday.
The recently enacted 2008 law for the first time gives the state the authority to review and approve the plans to ensure that they are adequate to respond to different levels of drought.
If a water system does not have a water shortage response plan, the new law requires the water system to implement the minimum water conservation measures for extreme and exceptional drought set out in rules adopted by the Environmental Management Commission in July 2006.
In situations of extreme or exceptional drought, the new law allows the department to require a local water system to implement the next level of water conservation measures required under the local plan if measures already in effect are not reducing water use.
“The purpose is to have measures in place that will protect the water supply in times of serious drought,” said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources. “If each water system takes steps to conserve, we can reduce the risk of a water shortage emergency.”
Salisbury is within an area considered to be in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Salisbury has a Water Emergency Management Plan with various action levels, based on the Yadkin River’s level above the city’s water intakes.
Level 1 voluntary restrictions were put in place Oct. 16, 2007, in response to Gov. Mike Easley’s call for statewide drought assistance and to possibly help neighboring communities with water supply if needed.
As of Wednesday, the river was still 27 inches above where Level 1 voluntary conservation measures are supposed to take place.
As water levels decrease, the action levels ó there are four total ó move to mandatory restrictions of varying degrees. The progressive levels of response are outlined by city ordinance, and Jones sent that document to the state Thursday.
To notify citizens of water restrictions, the city uses the newspaper, Time Warner Cable’s Access 16, its Web site and radio stations. Jones also sends periodic updates of the city’s water supply situation to community and industrial leaders and the Mooresville office of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Jones said Salisbury’s water source is approximately 4,000 square miles of the Yadkin River basin upstream of the intakes. The utility has developed an algorithm to calculate the flow of the Yadkin River at the intakes based on readings at four upstream U.S. Geological Survey gauges: Yadkin College, South Yadkin, Hunting Creek and Second Creek.
“Based on these gauges,” Jones said in his response to the state, “our maximum day gross withdrawal is approximately 3 percent of the current stream flow while our net consumption is less than 1 percent of the current stream flow.”
Salisbury-Rowan Utilities supplies water to East Spencer.
Other area water systems that received notification letters and whose plans had not been received included Davie County, Denton, Mocksville, Norwood and Pfeiffer-North Stanly Water Association.
The Division of Water Resources acknowledged the list was subject to change because it continues to receive water shortage response plans from some systems.