Winter Forecast Shows No Relief for Persistent Drought
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - With a La Niña winter forecast expected to bring above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation, water levels will continue to decline in drought-stricken lakes up and down the 225-mile Catawba-Wateree River basin.
“Cooler temperatures and conservation slowed the amount of water leaving the basin in November,” said Steve Jester, vice president, hydro licensing and lake services. “While this is good news, it’s important to understand that we are in a rainfall-dependent basin; we must have rainfall to return the water levels in lakes and the river levels back to normal.”
So far, 2007 is setting new records for lack of rainfall. With less than one inch of rainfall received in November, the region’s rainfall is below normal by 19 or more inches. The basin remains in Low Inflow Protocol - Stage 3 drought condition at this time.
“Winter and spring rains typically refill the reservoirs in this basin,” Jester said. “Without normal rainfall patterns during this period, the ability to generate adequate electricity, keep shallow water intakes covered and provide water for industrial uses becomes more of a concern.”
Stage 4 Estimate Extended
With the recent slowdown in the rate at which water in the reservoirs is being lost, Duke Energy now estimates that without substantial additional rainfall, Stage 4 triggers in the basin may be met in February 2008, updated from the mid-December 2007 to mid-January 2008 timeframe estimate. Stage 4 does not mean that the remaining supply of water in the basin is fully depleted. Rather, water suppliers would likely place tougher restrictions on water use. Additional rainfall and greater water conservation could help to further delay the onset of Stage 4.
Remaining Basin Water Supply Estimate Extended
Duke Energy has updated the worst-case scenario for estimating when the usable water storage in the basin will be depleted. At that time, the most shallow water intakes in the basin could be at risk and contingency plans would need to be implemented to ensure essential needs, such as electricity generation, drinking water and industrial uses are met.
By assuming a storage decline of 1.5 percent per week, which is greater than the average weekly storage loss rate for the past 90 days, the remaining usable water storage would be depleted by the middle of May 2008 – extended from the earlier estimate of the middle of March. This is a highly unlikely, worst-case scenario.
Conservation is even more important today than when this acute drought began back in April of this year. As the holiday season approaches, please ensure that out-of-town guests understand the exceptional drought situation gripping the region and ask them to abide by local water restrictions.
“Duke Energy remains committed to conserving water. As we have since April, we will continue to use our fleet of hydro generation assets far less than we typically do; use of those assets has been reduced by more than 50 percent,” Jester said. “In addition, we continue to work with major water suppliers to finalize contingency plans for essential services should the drought continue into the spring and summer of 2008. Finally, we thank individuals in the basin who have consistently conserved both water and energy during the drought and we strongly encourage them to continue to do so.”
Visit Duke Energy’s Carolinas Drought Information website – http://www.duke-energy.com/lakes/carolinas-drought-info.asp – for the latest information about water and energy conservation tips, lake levels and boat ramp closings.
Duke Energy’s Carolinas’ operations include nuclear, coal-fired, natural gas and hydroelectric generation. That diverse fuel mix provides nearly 21,000 megawatts of safe, reliable and competitively priced electricity to more than 2.3 million electric customers in a 24,000-square-mile service area of North Carolina and South Carolina.
Duke Energy, one of the largest electric power companies in the United States, supplies and delivers energy to approximately 4 million U.S. customers. The company has approximately 36,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity in the Midwest and the Carolinas, and natural gas distribution services in Ohio and Kentucky. In addition, Duke Energy has more than 4,000 megawatts of electric generation in Latin America, and is a joint-venture partner in a U.S. real estate company.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 500 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available on the Internet at: www.duke-energy.com.
Contact: Marilyn Lineberger
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