2007-11-15 / Front Page

Local governments deal with drought

By Donna Hinson

The citys water plant is now using its lowest pump to draw water from Clark's Hill Lake. The pump is currently eight feet below the water level. The citys water plant is now using its lowest pump to draw water from Clark's Hill Lake. The pump is currently eight feet below the water level. With the Clark's Hill Lake water level down another foot this week to 318 and no rain in sight, Lincolnton and Lincoln County are working hard to reduce water usage.

Last week, state officials handed down a mandate to public water supply systems to cut average production by 10 percent over last year's supply in response to the Level 4 drought designation attained in September.

Roby Seymour, Public Works Director for Lincoln County, says that his workers are currently handing out fliers to their 1600 customers, letting them know what the water use restrictions are. "In a rural county like we are that doesn't have much industry, we're primarily residential," Seymour says. "It (attaining the 10 percent reduction), is all about conservation."

Previously, the guidelines were only being handed to city residents, but with the worsening drought, a widening of the watering ban is necessary. There is no outdoor watering allowed, including that used for washing cars and watering grass. However, new landscaping can be watered, but for no more than 30 days. People can water their own non-commercial gardens, and car wash businesses can continue to operate.

The guidelines do not apply to county residents who have personal wells, but paying customers who fail to abide by the guidelines may at some point be issued citations, though none have yet been imposed.

"At this point, we have not passed any enforcements, but we are looking at enforcements. The county commissioners will have to decide about that," says Seymour. "There is no time frame," he adds.

Lincoln County buys its water from the City of Lincolnton, which operates a water plant pumping water in from Clarks Hill Lake. According to manager Stanley Parton, the water plant has three raw water intake pumps at varying depths. Recently, the city had to begin using the third, and lowest, pump. That pump currently has eight feet of water above it. Parton, who has held his position with the city for 16 years, says that he has seen water levels lower than this, and he believes the rain will come.

For now, the city is coping with more and more residents tapping into the water lines. "Every time a new house goes up, they tap onto the line," Parton says. He says he is also seeing well users abandon their wells to do the same thing. "One of my neighbors has been on a well, and he just recently paid the county to tap into the water," Parton adds. This growing number of customers will make it even more difficult to meet the mandated 10 percent reduction. "We're hoping people are going to conserve," Parton said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the federal government body that controls Clarks Hill Lake. They make sure there is adequate water for recreation, and also for power production and water supply needs. They maintain that control through the use of water releases at Thurmond Dam.

A balancing scale on the Corps website, - HYPERLINK "http:// www.sas.usace.army.mil/lakes/ thurmond" \o "blocked::http:// www.sas.usace.army.mil/lakes/ thurmond" - www.sas.usace .army.mil/lakes/thurmond, shows that the Corps must balance navigation, hydropower and flood control on one side against recreation, wildlife and water supply quality on the other. "The authorized purposes for the lakes do not change during a drought; we still must manage them all, however, priority is given to water supply and water quality."

According to that website, there are many factors to consider in deciding how much water is released. "The Savannah River Basin lakes - Hartwell, Richard B. Russell, and J. Strom Thurmond - are operated as multipurpose reservoirs, with consideration given to all authorized purposes. Corps hydrologists (our 'water managers') must balance these competing needs. There is potential for conflict between these purposes, especially during drought conditions," the site explains.

Residents can use the website to find updates on current and projected lake levels, as well as information on hazards. Also, toll-free telephone numbers and mailing addresses are listed so that people can call or write with questions about lake level management.

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