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The sudden storms may have arrived on our forecasts. But steady rain has not. Thus serious drought conditions are creeping back through North Carolina, as shown by the monitoring map of the NC Drought Management Advisory Council.

Almost on cue, new legislation outlining water conservation cleared a major hurdle by being approved in committee Tuesday, the News & Observer reported. This summer we could very well see the approval of, or at least debate on, new restrictions designed to combat future droughts. As it stands, the bill would give the state more power in forcing municipalities to implement conservation plans or to provide emergency assistance to other communities in times of drought.

It also includes a provision under improving “water system efficiency” that’s of interest to anyone upset about local water rates. To be eligible for any state grants for water and sewer projects, a municipality would have to demonstrate that its system:

(1)      Has established a water rate structure that is adequate to pay the cost of maintaining, repairing, and operating the system, including reserves for payment of principal and interest on indebtedness incurred for maintenance or improvement of the water system during periods of normal use and periods of reduced water use due to implementation of water conservation measures. The funding agency shall apply guidelines developed by the State Water Infrastructure Commission in determining the adequacy of the water rate structure to support operation and maintenance of the system.

(2)       Implemented a leak detection and repair program.

(3)       Has an approved water supply plan pursuant to G.S. 143‑355.

 

In other words, no cutting rates by subsidizing out of the general fund or skimping on maintenance costs.

For more background on this issue, see our May 23 cover story.

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