By Susan Dickson
CARRBORO â€“ Revisiting the hotly contested issue of drawing water from Jordan Lake, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on Tuesday voted 6-1 to recommend that the Orange Water and Sewer Authority consider changing its proposed drought plans.
OWASA has developed a drought protocol that recommends that its board should consider purchasing water from Jordan Lake in the event of a Stage 1 shortage, in which mandatory use restrictions go into effect. The board of aldermen voted to recommend that Jordan Lake water should not be considered for purchase until a Stage 2 shortage.
Board member Randee Haven-Oâ€™Donnell cast the lone dissenting vote.
The various stages of water shortages are based on how full OWASAâ€™s reservoirs are. The point at which stages are triggered varies depending on the time of the year. The proposed drought protocol recommends purchasing Jordan Lake water with reservoirs as full as 70 percent.
Alan Rimer, vice chair of the OWASA board, explained that the protocol outlines that the board would simply have the option to purchase water in the event of a Stage 1 shortage.
â€œItâ€™s not mandatory at that point; it is just a recommendation,â€ he said.
â€œThe reality is that the community as a whole has got to depend on a suite of water supplies, and one of those supplies in our suite is Jordan Lake,â€ he continued, adding that having the option to purchase water earlier could prevent an emergency situation down the road.
Carrboro board members said they would prefer to wait until Stage 2 to consider purchasing water in order to allow for the mandatory use restrictions to take effect. Under the proposed protocol, a Water Shortage Advisory stage would go into effect before Stage 1 and would initiate outreach to inform customers that restrictions and purchases could be necessary if conditions did not improve.
â€œWe want conservation before any attempt to buy from neighboring jurisdictions,â€ board member Sammy Slade said, noting the success the county has seen with water-conservation efforts in the past.
Last year, OWASA requested amendments to an inter-local agreement on water and sewer boundaries and planning that would allow the utility to draw a water allocation from Jordan Lake, but both Carrboro and Chapel Hill officials balked at the proposal, which would allow OWASA to draw its 5-million-gallon-per-day allocation from Jordan Lake through existing water connections running from Cary to Durham.
Members of the board of aldermen strongly objected to the plan, citing concerns with the quality of Jordan Lake water, while questioning the need for the allocation.