Stay the course?
In your Feb. 20 article "As water levels sink, houses likely will continue to rise," the president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce commented on the water crisis by saying we should "stay the course." Those are infamous words that have been used before. Should we stay the course? Or is this, like New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, another vivid example that waiting and hoping for "things to work out" doesn't work?
Every expert tells us that this drought is unprecedented in our recorded history, and recently we were told by some of our best weather experts at NCSU that summer weather is the least predictable. Don't we owe it to ourselves and our children to leave nothing to chance? Anything less than that is irresponsible.
This is an opportunity for our largest water users in the business community to voluntarily step forward and partner with the City of Raleigh to help us limit the effects of the drought and to pro-actively plan to combat it. It's pointless to get into a debate with Pepsi as to whether the company uses 400,000 gallons per day or 100,000 gallons. The point is, the company is part of our community, it employs local people (our neighbors) and we need its help to manage this crisis and, once beyond it, to create a permanent and sustainable environment in which businesses can thrive while we protect our water resources.
We need to accelerate the implementation of the Lake Benson water treatment plant. We need to look at a possible pipeline to Lake Jordan. We need to significantly increase our investment in a "gray water" system. Large businesses that benefit from this infrastructure can help the city get there more quickly by investing in these types of solutions.
Telling people we ran out of water because we didn't act while we could have is not leadership. I want Raleigh to be vibrant and wildly successful. I do not wish to put anybody out of business. I do not wish to have a building moratorium if unnecessary.
But let's at least put all of our options on the table and weigh them carefully. To "stay the course" and hope things will get better is not a solution when we're out of time and we need responsible leadership.
Rodger Koopman, City Councilor, District B, Raleigh
As I have said, our water system is like an aircraft carrier; you can't turn it on a dime. However, we do know we need to move from a system that assumes water is an infinite resource to a system that recognizes water is limited and must be managed as a whole, and not just by selling more of it. We also need to reduce debt so we stop raising rates by double digits each year. Conservation and reuse help us reduce the need for new infrastructure, reducing future pressure on water rates.
Furthermore, we need to make sure more of new growth pays for itself. This means shifting the burden from taxpayers to developers. It means higher capacity fees and possibly Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances to ensure schools, roads and water and sewer exist before new neighborhoods go in, rather than as an afterthought.
Taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook to pay for it all. Developers need to pay their fair share. This council has already taken steps in that direction by increasing impact fees and water connection fees on new development.
We need a smart reuse system. Instead of just one big city-owned system, we should create incentives for proven "local capture" solutions such as cisterns, rain barrels, etc., so we can reduce the millions spent on new capacity.
This is what I ran on in 2007 and have consistently supported. My council record clearly shows this.
Rodger Koopman, Councilor, District B, Raleigh