Carrboro/Chapel Hill Leads By Example But Still Has to Bail Out Durham?

I am all for lending my fellow brother a helping hand, but not if my brother expects the handout without making the necessary changes needed to prevent further bailouts.  For months, citizens of Chapel Hill/Carrboro have bit the bullet and took necessary action to conserve water during the drought.  As we watched our gardens wilt and our vehicles dust over, our Durham neighbors still washed their cars and hand-watered their lawns. We silently noted the limited supply of our Farmer's Markets while still supporting our struggling farmers, and while we grew impatient with the restrictions, we gain perspective every time we passed a sign in town reminding us to conserve. Perhaps the rumors are true, and Carrboro/Chapel Hill is the hippie,green cousin of our Durham city, and therefore able to embrace green incentives easier, but as they laughed at our progressiveness, Durham held out a bucket and asked for us to fill it up. Our supply is still barely half full, and OWASA is upholding Stage 3 restrictions, but my patience is wearing thin for my Durham neighbors when I see a gas station car wash being used in Durham that is not using recycled water! Or when I hear my Durham co-workers complain about their neighbors hand-watering their yards. Granted, OWASA taking 6 days of drinking water from Carrboro/Chapel Hill to give to Durham happened in December, but as Spring knocks on our door and we begin to prepare for our sweltering, North Carolina summer months, I beg those in charge to give Durham a stern warning: Tear a page from your hippie-cousin's book and GO GREEN. Thoughts?

OWASA agrees to provide water to Durham



They paid to expand their reservoir and processing capability when OWASA was still unable to provide all that was needed for our growing community. In fact, I believe we purchased water from Durham as recently as 2002 although I'm not 100% positive on that.

Each community comes to change in their own time and their own way. Threatening to withold water from a town that sold to us unconditionally in our time of need doesn't seem right to me.

I personally believe there is a big difference between paying for water in a growing town, to blatantly not holding Durham residents accountable during a severe drought. There is no justification for a BP gas station to be operating its car wash (and seeing a line of cars gearing up) when there are level 3 restrictions.


“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller

LMT, are you saying that there is no justification even if the BP station is following the rules?  In Durham, "... any commercial car wash facility shall be permitted to use water for such purposes, when 50% water savings are documented."  Seeing a line a cars probably means that the BP is able to meet the requirement and people are there because they are able to operate.

I don't think OWASA should attempt to hold Durham residents accountable for anything; we have our hands full trying to take care of our own situation. 

I responded to your comment, but I don't know what happened to it. I think OWASA should most definitely hold Durham responsible for holding Durham's residents responsible IF they ask US to fill their buckets

“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller

Fred, don't know where my initial response to you went, but I explained that it is a moral issue. I think it is shameful to allow non-recycled car washes to remain open during a drought. How much water would Durham have conserved if they simply denied people car washes, EVEN if 50% of water savings were documented. It's a drought for God sakes, and washing your SUV is completely unnecessary! Especially when there are people letting the "yellow-mellow."  Ya dig? :-)


“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller

We were on the verge of buying water from Durham in 2002 but the "miracle rain" of Oct. '02 came just two days aftert the OWASA Board endorsed the buy so it did not happen. Durham had water then due to the vagaries of the weather - they got rain during the drought when we did not.

Also, OWASA & Durham maintain a connection so that they can help each other out in emergencies of any kind.

That being said, there should have been negotiations and standards set before any request for water from Durham. We need to be strategic and recognize the power we have to raise standards across the region. If we unconditionally provide water to jurusdictions who have not instituted smart conservation practices, then we are just enabling dangerous and unsustainable behavior. It's not easy telling your neighbors something like that, but this is  a new era. We are running up against the limits of essential resources in this area for the first time in human history.

Also, I am curoius if anyone has any corroborating info on a rumor I heard about the water sale. I heard that Durham may have desired that quick infusion of OWASA water to temporarily bolster their supply numbers to prevent them from having to go to the next stage of water conservation (read: altering business-as-usual). Anybody have any light to shed on this? 


Durham has been in Stage IV restrictions since December. There's a big difference between putting restrictions in place and enforcing them. Should those who put the restrictions in place and those who adhere to them be penalized for those who don't? Even here in OWASA-land we have violators. Enforcement here depends on neighbors and citizens reporting each other.

Re the timing of Durham's water request to OWASA, the sequence was that the asked for it as supplies were dwindling, and Water Managemant was planning to recommend a move to Stage V soon after Jan. 1. But the rain just before New Year's intervened after OWASA started shipping water and they postponed the Stage V discussion.

Re conservation, I wouldn't assume that OWASA is any more effective than Durham or that Durham is any less effective. The demand figures the two systems are reporting indicate that Durham is using about 3x as much water as OWASA. But the city of Durham's population is about 3x as large as the combined population of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Also, both utilities have been reporting that winter demand has been about 11 percent less than it was this time last year. In point of fact, so far this month Durham's demand is down 17 percent over what it was in March of 2007.

Thanks for posting this Ruby. I thought the system had eaten my post.
I don't think we should assume we're Durham's hippie green cousins either. Durham has a completed greenhouse gas inventory and reduction plan in place. (Much of their carbon footprint owes to Orange County residents who commute to work in Durham.) They've got good bike trails, a sustainability coordinator, and several other "green" features that are missing in Orange County/Chapel Hill. There's definitely room for improvement in both communities, but both are trying and making good progress.

Do I really have to explain or justify how Carrboro is often viewed as "hippie" and "green" compared to (Raleigh or Durham)to you?


“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller

Terri, I've seen the Durham GHG reduction plan. There are serious problems embedded in some of the assumptions that I believe make Durham extremely unlikely to reach its goals.  They deserve credit for developing a plan, but that doesn't mean it's going to work.  

As we've learned going through this process in Orange County, we don't really know enough about how to count carbon emissions to conduct a reliable inventory. We don't even keep the basic data necessary to do one well from the beginning. So for Durham as for Orange, this initial inventory is a starting place for a process that we should expect to change and become more clear once we get started.

The software tools used by ICLEI didn't make the assumptions clear at all and efforts to have those assumptions explicated during site visits were unsuccessful. However, in Durham's favor, they included their school system, they had great participation and support from elected officials, and they were the first community locally to undergo this process. Not perfect, but you gotta start somewhere.

How anyone in Chapel Hill-Carboro can blather on about water management is beyond me. OWASA restrictions profoundly limit use of 20,000 acres in Orange County, watershed acres that are nowhere near town and acres that get no benefit from OWASA. Give me 20,000 acres of someone else's land and I'll collect a little water too. So please shut up about what a great job your'e doing.

By the way, rumors about disgruntled county residents expressing political sentiments by urinating into Cane Creek reservoir are mostly untrue.


Hey's not really an anonymous comment if you tell us your name is Rick. Not sure about you, but when I was in kindergarten, I learned that saying "shut up" is not really nice, but hey you said please, so I'll give you partial credit.


“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller

Thanks for the partial credit. While we are on the topic of what we learned in school, I learned in kindergarten that it is not nice to take things that aren't yours, but Chapel Hill-Carrboro does it with every gallon of water that it takes from Orange County, and they also take away immeasurable weatlh from county residents by restricting what county residents may do with their own land.

I'll do my best to stop saying shut up if you can get Chapel Hill-Carrboro to give back what they've taken. Seem like a natural job for anyone who would agree that we need a sense of responsibility for each other's welfare. Good luck with that in Chapel Hill.


I understand your point on Orange Co. & Chapel  Hill, but the point I raised was your hostility towards those who comment on this board.


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