Limits on the density of development on over 13,000 acres as a result of North Wilkesboro establishing a raw water intake on the Yadkin River are another reason the North Wilkesboro commissioners should seriously consider buying water from Wilkesboro instead.
These restrictions would be tied to acreage designated a WS-IV watershed, and this is needed before the new intake can be built. However, the Wilkes County and Wilkesboro governing bodies must agree to enforce the restrictions on the acreage in their jurisdictions before the state will approve the WS-IV designation.
A little over 10,000 of the 13,000-plus acres in the WS-IV watershed would be county government’s responsibility, extending south from the proposed new intake site near the Yadkin River Greenway bridge over the Yadkin almost to the Alexander County line in the shape of a funnel. This would encompass the Moravian Creek watershed.
The new intake would put the strictest WS-IV rules on more of the county’s most developable land - acreage near the river. In a mountain county with limited public water and sewer coverage, this is no small matter.
The county commissioners took no action Tuesday when North Wilkesboro Town Manager Wilson Hooper sought approval of a resolution supporting the town’s efforts for a WS-IV watershed designation. The Wilkesboro Town Council took no action on a similar resolution on Nov. 4.
A majority of the county commissioners later said they want North Wilkesboro and Wilkesboro officials to investigate working together to meet water needs of the two towns and rural water associations that buy water from them before a new intake is built for North Wilkesboro.
This could mean North Wilkesboro buying all or part of its water from Wilkesboro and the two towns sharing the cost of expanding Wilkesboro’s water production capacity. It could mean building a new intake farther upstream to serve both towns, thereby providing cleaner raw water and freeing some Yadkin bottomland from watershed rules.
Some of the county commissioners also are interested in possible county government involvement. This could lead to establishment of a water authority with representation of town and county governments.
Wilkesboro recently authorized a study to determine the town’s cost of producing water. Hooper said the same company is doing the same thing for North Wilkesboro as a result of the Wilkesboro Town Council requesting this when he sought approval of the watershed resolution.
The results of these studies should provide a better idea of the feasibility of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro working together to meet water needs of the two towns and the county’s rural water associations. The expected costs of upgrading North Wilkesboro’s aging water treatment plant and the town’s water lines should also be considered.
Working with Wilkesboro to meet water needs of both towns should leave North Wilkesboro better able to address sewer line upgrades.
As the studies are done to determine the cost of producing water in each town, North Wilkesboro officials should investigate if state funding conditionally approved for North Wilkesboro’s proposed water intake on the Yadkin could instead be used for some type of joint North Wilkesboro/Wilkesboro water effort.
Consideration also needs to be given to how North Wilkesboro’s current but inadequate water source, a small reservoir on the Reddies River, could remain usable as a backup water source.
Otherwise, the cost efficiency of having one water intake on the Yadkin River and one water treatment plant serving Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro appears obvious. This also would avoid putting watershed land use restrictions on additional Wilkes County acreage.