Water Industry News

Outer banks residents stunned by cost of reverse-osmosis water bill
and quantity of water use

reported by The Virginian-Pilot
September 2, 2005

COROLLA — Currituck County, North Carolina started using its new reverse-osmosis treatment plant about three weeks ago. The water, delivered to wealthy Outer Banks homes, is a blend of RO water from 200' deep saline contaminated wells and from water chlorine treated and filtered drawn from shallow wells.   

There have been no complaints about quality or quantity, but some water bills have been greater than $1,000 per month.

Although the average cost is less than 1¢ per gallon ($8.60/1000 gallons) homeowners switching from private, unmetered wells were shocked by the amount of water they use. 

One owner of a seven-bedroom rental home used 142,000 gallons of water from late July to late August running up a bill of $1,229. About 10 others approached $1,000.

Before the water plant went on line, homes’ plumbing systems tapped into private wells, and there were no monthly bills.

The culprit is extended use of sprinkler systems, leaving water hoses running and filling swimming pools.

The plant is expected to help hundreds of property owners who have for years struggled with contamination and natural deposits found in private well water. 

Soon it will be able to serve 5,455 homes, enough to fully develop the southern Currituck Outer Banks. 

Reverse Osmosis growing rapidly in
North Carolina

Reverse-osmosis plants draw from larger, deeper wells of brackish water some 200 feet below the surface where the primary impurity is salt. Fine membranes separate the salt from the water. The salty discharge produced by reverse osmosis is pumped to a pipe that empties into the ocean several hundred feet from the plant.

Reverse-osmosis plants are becoming more common because conventional water plants draw from shallow wells that are not producing enough water alone to handle growth. Water from shallow wells about 50 feet deep requires chemical treatments such as chlorine to get rid of bacteria and other impurities.

Many counties in northeastern North Carolina are turning to reverse-osmosis plants. All 17 reverse-osmosis plants in the state are located in northeastern North Carolina. There were only eight three years ago. Inland cities and counties have plenty of freshwater sources from which to draw water.

Reported by Jeffrey Hampton at (252) 338-0159 or jeff.hampton@pilotonline.com.

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