On Thursday, Gov. Mike Easley directed state agencies in all 100 counties throughout North Carolina to stop non-essential water use as the drought has spread statewide.
In addition, the governor is asking all citizens to cut back their water consumption 20 percent since the drought is not expected to let up anytime soon.
“Stream flows and groundwater levels are approaching their lowest levels in recorded history and many of our reservoirs are declining by one foot every 10 days,” said Easley. “We all must conserve if we are to, in any way, minimize the impact of the drought.
The federal drought map released Thursday shows the drought has spread to all 100 of the state’s counties. Exceptional drought is now in 12 counties in western North Carolina.
Extreme drought has moved from the Piedmont to the coastal plain and is affecting 28 counties. Severe drought is in 44 counties and has spread to Wilmington and other southeastern communities.
The remaining 16 counties are in moderate drought. The drought map can be found at www.ncdrought.org.
On average, North Carolina communities have received between 50 percent and 75 percent of the normal rainfall for this time of year. The weather forecast is calling for little chance of significant rainfall during the next week, meaning more strain on the state’s 597 public water systems.
As of Thursday, 59 public water systems have imposed voluntary water restrictions and 21 have imposed mandatory water restrictions due to the drought. In total, 130 systems that serve 52 percent of the state’s population have instituted water restrictions due to drought, seasonal programs or for other reasons.
While there have been isolated, brief storms recently, weather forecasters predict no immediate relief to the drought that is drying reservoirs, devastating farm crops and livestock, and leaving homeowners with brown lawns and dying plants. Reduced water levels have forced the closing of some recreational facilities at state lakes.
The lack of rain in recent months has dried out vegetation so much that the N.C. Division of Forest Resources has imposed a statewide ban on open burning and cancelled all burning permits.