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Pieces of Eight


Every Drop Counts


The U.S. Drought Monitor of North Carolina, provided by the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council, reflects serious drought conditions across the state by severity. The council monitors drought conditions, provides drought status advisories to local governments, and recommends response actions in areas that show impending or existing drought conditions. Pitt County is shown as experiencing extreme drought conditions. (Map courtesy of the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council)

ECU Begins Water Conservation Efforts

By Jeannine Manning Hutson

On Oct. 22, N.C. Governor Mike Easley asked North Carolinians to cut their water use in half by Oct. 31 to conserve this valuable resource during the state’s continuing drought. He dubbed that push for conservation, “Operation Halve-It.”

North Carolinians responded by cutting back on their water usage, but there is no significant relief in sight, scientists across the state agree. In late November, Easley encouraged residents to continue their conservation efforts.

The federal drought map released Nov. 27 showed 62 North Carolina counties—up from 25 counties two weeks prior—suffering an exceptional drought, the worst level of the four-category system.

walking in rain
ECU English and anthropology major Jonathan Jenrich strolls through a rare, brief shower on campus Nov. 26. (Photo by Joy Holster)

We can thank the La Niña climate state for our current lack of rainfall, said Scott Curtis, assistant professor of geography at East Carolina University and assistant director for the Center for Natural Hazards Research.

“Part of the cause of our current situation is that there’s a La Niña in the Pacific Ocean and that tends to leave the Southern tier of the United States drier than normal,” he said.

Pitt County continues to suffer from extreme drought, according to the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council. The Central Coastal Plain of North Carolina has received 38.82 inches of rain, or approximately 75 percent of its normal yearly rainfall, according to information from the drought management group.

“With La Niña, the jet stream shifts to the north and the storms bypass the South, and that has been the case this fall,” Curtis said.

La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, as compared to El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the same region, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Another factor is that we didn’t have any tropical storms this year. North Carolina depends on that rainfall to replenish the water supply so the lack of tropical storms has further enhanced the drought conditions,” Curtis said.

“We hate to have hurricanes because they can cause a lot of damage, but we do need the rainfall that they bring.”

On ECU’s campus, staff members continue to implement measures to reduce the water used on campus. A series of e-mailed tips on how to conserve water have been distributed across campus to students and employees.

And the extra measures have made a difference, according to George Harrell, senior associate vice chancellor for campus operations. In late November, he reported that water consumption had decreased in October by 4.4 million gallons, or 17 percent, from September’s usage of more than 25 million gallons.

The following steps were taken on campus to reduce water use:

• Lawn watering has ceased, except for new plants that need intermittent watering for about 30 days to survive and begin establishing a root system.

• The water wall and the cloud machine near Joyner Library along with the outside recreational pool at the Student Recreational Center were taken off line. Pools at Minges Coliseum and the indoor pool at the Student Rec Center are used for classes and remain open.

• Hanging baskets were minimally maintained through Homecoming and now are “on their own,” Harrell said.

• All campus vehicle washing has ceased, except for refuse trucks.

• Washing building exteriors has ceased, except to remove graffiti.

• Low-flow shower heads had already been installed in all but one residence hall. All other showers are being checked to assure proper water flow.

• Work orders concerning “drips” continue to be given priority handling.

The coming months don’t appear to hold much promise for needed rainfall, Curtis said. “The three-month rainfall outlook continues to be below normal,” he said.

This page originally appeared in the Dec. 7, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at