Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Drought update: Here’s the latest on water restrictions and burn bans

Water utilities throughout the region are adding water restrictions to deal with drought conditions. Burn bans are also in effect at the state and local level. (Port City Daily photo / Benjamin Schachtman)
Water utilities throughout the region are adding water restrictions to deal with drought conditions. Burn bans are also in effect at the state and local level. (Port City Daily photo / Benjamin Schachtman)

Restrictions on water usage and outdoor burning are now in place around the southeastern part of North Carolina as drought conditions look like they will persist at least into next week.

WILMINGTON — Yesterday the federal drought mapping agency declared a “moderate drought” for Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender counties. County and local government have issued a number of water restrictions and burn bans due to these conditions

According to the National Weather Service, Wilmington has recorded no rainfall over a 17-day period — on May 12, .18 inches was recorded. The May total is only .29 inches, well short of the normal monthly value of 4.15 inches.

The U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday declared moderate drought conditions across the southeastern part of the state, from Brunswick County to Pamlico County. Mark Bacon, a meteorologist with the NOAA’s National Weather Service Forecast Office in Wilmington, said low-chance scattered thunderstorms over the next few days will not likely bring any large-scale drought relief.

Water restrictions

Pender County — Pender County issued a Stage 3 water conservation alert last weekend, but has since walked back the accompanying 50-percent surcharge and has ended the boil advisory after testing showed no bacteria content in the water.

Mandatory water restrictions for the Hampstead, Scotts Hill, and southern Rocky Point areas remain in place.

“All non-essential uses of drinking water are banned. Garden and landscape irrigation must be reduced to the minimum amount necessary for survival. Customers are urged to wash clothes in full loads only,” according to Pender County.

Pender County Parks and Recreation, which operates on a separate water system, is also conserving water at each of the county’s parks.

Brunswick County — Brunswick County issued a Stage 1 Water Conservation Alert.

Water conservation activities are voluntary. Brunswick County asks water consumers to limit nonessential water use to after nightfall, between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.  The alert does not apply to private well owners. (Details and water conservation suggestions from the county can be found here.)

Leland has issued its own alert, also asking for voluntary water conservation by residents.

New Hanover County — The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has issued Stage 1 water usage restrictions for all customers, beginning Saturday.

Previously, CFPUA issued a Stage 1 alert for customers of the Richardson Water Treatment Plant, which serves approximately 29,000 customers in northern New Hanover County, including Murrayville, Wrightsboro, Porters Neck, and parts of Castle Hayne and Ogden.

Stage 1 restrictions include irrigation, law sprinklers, and new landscaping and lawns. Details below:

Burn bans

Brunswick and Pender counties, as well as the towns of Leland and Belville issued burn bans earlier this week (note: Wilmington has a standing burn ban, regardless of drought conditions). On Thursday at 5 p.m., the N.C. Forest Service put into effect a wide-spread burn ban for 18 counties, including Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender.

The ban prohibits any open burning, even if permits had previously been issued (no new permits will be issued until the ban is lifted). Violations can incur $100 fines and $180 court fees, plus the cost of reimbursing the Forest Service for extinguishing fires.

Details on the ban:

  • The burn ban does not apply to cooking fires such as grills or outdoor cookers (note: county and municipal bans usually require cooking fires have a lid or cover).
  • The ban does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. County fire marshals have jurisdiction over open burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. The N.C. Forest Service has advised county fire marshals of the burning ban and asked for their consideration of also implementing a burning ban. In addition, other local ordinances and air quality regulations may also impact open burning.
  • If a fire within that 100-foot area escapes containment, a North Carolina forest ranger may take reasonable steps to extinguish or control it. The person responsible for setting the fire may be responsible for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing it.
  • Open burning includes burning leaves, branches and other plant material. In all cases, it is illegal to burn trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other non-vegetative materials.
  • Outdoor burning is also prohibited in areas covered by Code Orange or Code Red air quality forecasts.


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