Drought forces water restrictions in Cherokee
CHEROKEE – People living in Cherokee won’t be allowed to water their lawns and the government is discouraging restaurants from serving tap under a mandatory restriction because of the statewide drought.
Cherokee follows Tryon with a water-use cutback and Hendersonville with a call for voluntary restrictions. Farther east, Mecklenburg County this week banned lawn watering.
“Really we just wanted to have something in place for our protection,” said Shelia Hyatt, water department supervisor for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “Really, it is scary at this point.”
Western North Carolina is in an extreme drought. The region is about 10 inches below normal rainfall.
Cherokee Police and water department workers will enforce the mandatory water-use cut of 5 percent on the Qualla Boundary with civil and criminal fines.
Workers from the water department on Tuesday dredged the Oconaluftee River near the tribe’s intake plant to create a pond to catch more water. The tribe gets all of its water from the river.
The river had dropped to about 2 feet near the intake plant. It is normally about 5 feet at that spot, Hyatt said. She said the pond has helped.
Hyatt said the tribe doesn’t have a plan for getting water if the river runs dry.
“That is the next question,” she said. “We don’t have an alternate source.”
The tribe has 2,000 customers on the Cherokee Indian Reservation and along U.S. 441 off the boundary.
The water restrictions had not stopped business at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, one of the region’s largest employers.
Casino spokeswoman Susan Angel said Harrah’s last week started cutting back on water usage when the tribe called for a voluntary restriction.
She said workers are using creek water instead of city water for irrigation. The move is saving 4,000 gallons a week. The fountain in front of the casino has been turned off as well as the one inside the hotel lobby.
Guests are provided bottle water if they ask for it. Water is not being preset at tables inside the casino’s restaurants.
“We are doing business as usual,” she said
Water restrictions in Cherokee include:
• Watering of grass is restricted to three days out of a seven day period at two-day intervals.
• Washing paved surfaces such as streets, roads, sidewalks, driveways, garages, parking areas, and patios is restricted to three days out of a seven day period at two-day intervals. An exception will be made when procedures are necessary for sanitation or public health purposes such as eating and drinking areas.
• Use of water for the operation of ornamental fountains, artificial waterfalls, misting machines and reflecting pools is prohibited except for systems that continuously recycle water.
• Use of water for non-commercial washing or cleaning of mobile equipment including cars, trucks, trailers and boats is prohibited except at commercial car washes with a water conservation plan in place and for the cleaning of construction, emergency or public transportation vehicles if necessary.
• Serving of tap water in restaurants or food establishments is prohibited unless specifically requested by the customer.