HAMPSTEAD, N.C. (WECT) - Pender County leaders have issued voluntary water restrictions ahead of the holiday weekend, hoping to avoid another water crisis. The hope was that a 5 percent reduction in water usage could offset the high demand that is expected during the busy beach weekend ahead.
Last Memorial Day weekend, the dry conditions, and increased traffic emptied the county’s water tanks and sent the area into mandatory water restrictions.
Pender County Utilities Director Kenny Keel says he’s concerned about the increase in usage; just last weekend, the system was pushed to its limits.
"We have a very finite amount of water that we can deliver to that side of the county and with all the growth and with summer peak demands we’re really close to that peak,” Keel explained.
After the water emergency in May 2019, county leaders came up with a plan to build high capacity wells in the Hampstead area to keep up with the demand. When funding for the $1.6 million project was approved, leaders announced the first well was expected to be done as soon as Memorial Weekend 2020.
The schedule for the project was aggressive, however, and crews hit several bumps in the road. Well sampling came back showing the water contained iron, causing officials to add different chemical feeds to treat the water.
After the first well at the Hampstead Annex was constructed, a vein broke at the bottom, flooding it with fine sand. Construction crews had to move over 100 feet and drill a new well.
Now, the first well won’t be operational until August.
Adding wells to the area isn’t the only way officials are handling the tremendous growth in the Highway 17 corridor. While the wells will produce 500,000 gallons of water a day — getting the community through the next few years — the larger goal is to construct a reverse-osmosis (RO) plant. The plant would produce three million gallons a day and could be ramped up to produce five million gallons a day during an emergency.
Commissioners conducted a water study to determine the best long-term solution for the area’s growth and it showed adding a RO plant made the most sense, economically. The RO project, however, is not expected to be completed for five years.
While housing and commercial developments have popped up faster than the county expected, leaders know the extensive growth in the area is a good problem to have.
“So many houses and commercial development going on in the county and we don’t wanna squelch that. Property owners have a right to develop their property and so we’re doing everything we can to deliver enough water so that can continue to happen,” said Keel.
Until the infrastructure is able to catch up, the utility has sent out a list of ways to conserve water.
Practical measures to reduce water consumption include:
- Prevent water waste, runoff, and do not water-impervious surfaces.
- Water plants deeply to encourage root growth.
- Wash only full loads in clothes and dishwashers.
- Use spring-loaded nozzles on garden hoses.
- Identify and repair all water leaks.
- Water shrubbery the minimum amount required.
- Limit vehicle and boat washing to the minimum.
- Refrain from washing down outside areas such as sidewalks and patios.
- Use showers rather than baths and limit showers to no more than 4-minutes.
- Refrain from leaving faucets running while shaving or while rinsing dishes.
- Install water-flow restrictive devices in showerheads.
- Use disposable and biodegradable dishes.
- Install water-saving devices such as plastic bottles or commercial units in toilet tanks to reduce volume.
- Ensure the toilet flapper valves are not leaking - test with a food coloring to the toilet tank and visually checking to see if the color appears in the bowl. If a color shows, the toilet is leaking.
- Store drinking water in the refrigerator to avoid trying to run it until cool from the tap.
For more information regarding the voluntary water restrictions, call Pender County Utilities at 910-259-1570.