Area now in moderate drought; people urged to conserve water

Published 9:35 am Monday, August 10, 2015

Several weeks ago, Salisbury-Rowan Utilities reported that the seven-day average flow of water at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Yadkin College Gauge, located upstream of the city’s intake, was 751 million gallons of water a day.

While the U.S. Drought Monitor categorized this as “abnormally dry” conditions for the watershed upstream of the city’s intakes, it did not trigger SRU’s Water Shortage Response Plan.

The U.S. Drought Monitor has updated reports that conditions in the watershed have now reached “moderate drought,” as the seven-day average flow at Yadkin College Gauge is 622 million gallons of water a day, which is just within the range to place the city of Salisbury into an alert level identified in its Water Shortage Response Plan.

Jim Behmer, utilities director, states, “Because we are just within the water shortage criteria’s range, which is set at a flow rate below 646 million gallons per day, we are required to issue an advisory.”  Behmer stressed that, “Citizens and business are not to mistake this with a severe or extreme drought.”

The good news is that Salisbury-Rowan Utilities obtains water from the Yadkin River which is fed by the Yadkin Pee-Dee River Basin, the second largest watershed in North Carolina. Unlike many of the other 16 river basins in North Carolina, the Yadkin Pee-Dee extends up into Virginia and along a wide watershed made up of 4,000 square miles, or 2.5 million acres, in nine counties.

Salisbury-Rowan Utilities is fortunate compared to many other areas within the Southeast. When the counties upstream get precipitation, it is accessible to Salisbury’s intakes; and of the hundreds of millions of gallons which flow past the intakes daily, the water system only uses a seasonal average of 10 million gallons per day.

Of course, the city will continue to monitor the water supply and will provide updates as they become available.  As reported several weeks ago, SRU are quite a ways from issuing voluntary water-use restrictions, which would occur if the flow rates dropped to less than 323 million gallons a day.

The system is not there yet; however, if citizens want to be proactive, there are some easy ways to conserve water which include turning off faucets while shaving, brushing teeth or washing dishes, operating washing machines and dishwashers with full loads only, limiting time when taking showers, and refraining from using water to wash down driveways or parking lots.