City of Asheville takes stock of water supplies in dry weather

Despite the recent spell of dry, hot weather throughout the state, the City of Asheville’s water supply remains in good shape and is able to meet the demands of water customers, reports Water Services Director Steve Shoaf.

Last week, the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council ( issued a drought advisory for the state of North Carolina, and classified Asheville and its surrounding region as “abnormally dry.” But tools used by the City of Asheville to help predict shortages to its water supply do not indicate that the city needs to implement conservation measures at this time.

The Water Resources Department utilizes software that factors elements like climate, topography, weather history, soil condition and water use to determine the ideal level for the city’s primary water source, the Lake Burnette (North Fork) reservoir, one of three water sources and treatment facilities the city owns. The program crunches that data to estimate where water levels will be 10 weeks out, giving the city’s Water Resource Department time to factor in potential conservation steps. Based on the percentage chance that the reservoir will be at a specific level, the city can decide whether or not to implement conservation measures.

“It tells us that if we have these conditions today, in 10 weeks the lake is going to be at a certain level,” Shoaf says. “The results of the model indicate that we are not currently threatened by the dry weather conditions.”

In a recent update to the office of the City Manager, Shoaf reported that the current level at North Fork is 4.95 feet below full. Beginning in 2004, the City of Asheville, with the help of an outside consulting firm, created a drought management plan that determines specific thresholds for the lake’s level that would trigger conservation measures, the first of which doesn’t occur until the lake is 30 feet below full.

In fact, Shoaf says, the North Fork reservoir is typically kept at least three feet low as a preventative measure against flood events like the ones that struck Asheville in 2004 in the wakes of hurricanes Francis and Ivan. That safety measure came as a result of the city’s flood operations plan adopted by Asheville City Council in 2007 to prevent large releases of water into the Swannanoa and French Broad rivers in the case of heavy rains.

“If a tropical storm comes, we drop it even further,” Shoaf says.

The last time the City of Asheville implemented water conservation measures was in October 2007. That measure was voluntary instead of mandatory, and the measure was lifted in April 2008. Over those seven months, conservation efforts by City of Asheville water customers saved approximately 2 million gallons per day.

Click here to see more on the City of Asheville’s drought management plan.