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Water fight in Boone

The town of Boone is facing a water crisis. Officials say they have nearly maxed out their water supply and may soon have to put a moratorium on building any new homes. Boone wants permission to take 4 million additional gallons of water from the New River. The proposal is drawing fire from residents. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: The Town of Boone says its needs to more than double the water it currently draws out of the New River in order to keep up with its growing population over the next twenty years. Hundreds of residents in communities along the river have signed a petition urging the town to find another way to meet its water needs. Mia Hartsook lives near the spot on the river where Boone hopes to build a new water intake. "There may be other options," says Hartsook. "For example many municipalities around the country rely to some extent on groundwater aquifers. There might be more stringent water conservation measures put into effect. Let's look at those rather than just planning to put this huge intake on the river." Hartsook says the people who've signed the petition question Boone's population projections. They also worry the town's water withdrawal could hurt the New River's status as a popular destination for canoeing and kayaking. Boone Public Utilities Director Rick Miller says the river flow will change little, since more than 90 percent of the water the town takes out ends up back at a wastewater plant where it is treated and returned to the river. Miller says digging more wells to meet Boone's water needs would be far too expensive. And he says the city actively encourages residents to conserve water, but has not implemented mandatory restrictions. "The town of Boone has a responsibility to provide safe clean drinking water to our citizens. That is what this is all about," says Miller. "It's a very important river, we know that. We want to protect it, but we still have the need for drinking water. Federal regulators are expected to begin taking public comment on the environmental impact of Boone's water plan in the coming weeks. Once that review is complete, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has final authority to approve Boone's request for more water from the New River.