SP Reservoir Full, Securing Future Water Needs
BY TED M. NATT JR.
Southern Pines is well-positioned for future growth now that its new 140 million-gallon reservoir has been filled.
"The completion of the reservoir is another significant building block and was vital for the town to move forward," Mayor David McNeill said Tuesday. "On behalf of the town, we're appreciative of the efforts of previous councils to initiate the water treatment plant and this reservoir."
The 36-acre reservoir was constructed next to the town's water treatment plant on Drowning Creek southwest of Pinebluff. The plant was built in the early 1980s.
Town officials say the reservoir will become part of Southern Pines' overall supply system, providing water as needed for daily use.
"I think this is the culmination of decades of effort and forward thinking on the part of our town to ensure that we're going to be OK for the foreseeable future," council member Chris Smithson said. "I don't think Southern Pines will have any serious issues with water as we build out the town. I think we're in great shape."
Smithson noted that Whispering Pines, which buys its water from Southern Pines, is also "in much better shape."
"It's all part of the puzzle in solving the water needs for the county," he said.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said the reservoir gives Southern Pines a 30- to 90-day supply of water, even if the creek runs dry.
"Obviously, we're very pleased to see the completion of the project," Parsons said. "It decreases the potential necessity for water restrictions in the future."
The project was initially budgeted for $3.2 million, but permitting delays and engineering changes boosted that figure to almost $6 million.
Parsons said the town borrowed about $4 million and paid for the rest out of capital reserves.
"The original estimate is over a decade old and was for construction only," he said. "It's also important to note that we completed the project without the need to raise water rates."
The reservoir, which was initially scheduled for completion in December 2010, was delayed during the permitting process by environmental restrictions imposed by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Those restrictions included lessening potential water discharge damage to downstream aquatic life that doesn't exist because the tributary is dry at least three months a year.
"It's been a long time coming," Smithson said. "I'm glad it's finally finished and full. It's good for the town and it's also good for the environment because we won't be stressing the creek like we have in the past."
The town imposed mandatory water conservation measures twice this summer due to low water flow in Drowning Creek, but that hasn't been a concern in the past month due to the amount of rain.
"We're fortunate that the recent rainfall lessened the demand for outside irrigation and enabled the reservoir to fill sooner than anticipated," McNeill said.
Southern Pines' entire water supply comes from Drowning Creek. It nearly ran dry in a severe drought in 2002, requiring the town to build emergency lines to obtain water from Aberdeen and also to reactivate some wells that it had closed when it built the water treatment plant.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
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