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Task force seeks answers to water shortages

As a task force continues to probe solutions to the drought-induced water shortage in Jackson County, one idea on the table is passing out low-flow showerheads and aerators for the public to install on their faucets.

Task Force Chairman Tom Massie said despite all the rain lately the region remains in a drought, which is threatening the water supply, particularly of wells. According to the Health Department, 25 percent of the new well permits issued last year were for people who had wells or springs run dry.

The logitics of passing out water-saving devices would still have to be worked out, said Massie. The devices only cost around $4, he said.

Massie said he does not know if the water-saving devices can be given to the public for free. They could possibly be distributed when someone obtains a building permit, he said.

Using cisterns and rain gardens to collect storm water to use for irrigation can also conserve water, he said.

Short-term solutions from the task force are expected to be ready in March and presented to the county commissioners and towns in the county in March, Massie said.

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The task force was formed in the fall after several residents reported that their wells had run dry due to the drought. Some were forced to move out of their homes.

The task force is scheduled to meet again Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. in Jackson County Courthouse.

Task force members have learned about the scientific side of the water cycle in a presentation by task force member Dr. Mark Lord, who is the department head of the Hydrogeology, Geomorphology and Soils Department at Western Carolina University.

The average Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority residential customer uses an average of 216 gallons of water per day — far more than the national average of 70 gallons, TWASA Executive Director Joe Cline. That means a household of three is using about 20,000 gallons of water per month.

Cline said anyone with a well should be concerned about it running dry.

Massie stressed the importance of educating the public about the importance of saving water.

Cline said TWASA customers are “wasteful” with water.

Massie emphasized that TWASA customers represent a small number of the county’s overall population. But the large volume of water TWASA customers are using begs the question of how much those on wells are using.

It is unclear how public education could be achieved, but Massie said it could possibly be communicated through county public service announcements.

The task force is composed of a representative from the county and each town in Jackson County as well representatives from WCU, the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority and Southwestern Community College

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