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Water as a Sustainability Issue The Drought's Effects on the Carolinas

Cowans Ford DamDuke Energy owns and manages 13 hydropower stations and 11 reservoirs on the Catawba-Wateree River system, covering over 200 river-miles in North Carolina and South Carolina. The river and reservoirs are the backbone of our generation fleet, providing over 830 megawatts of renewable hydropower and cooling water to more than 8,100 megawatts of fossil and nuclear generation, approximately 45 percent of Duke Energy Carolinas’ generating capacity.

Electric generation

In 2007, North Carolina experienced the driest year and South Carolina experienced the fifth driest year in the 113 years that rainfall records have been maintained. In total, the Duke Energy Carolinas service area received less than 28 inches of rainfall in 2007, or 40 percent below the long-term average. Despite the drought and record-high temperatures, Duke Energy Carolinas’ employees kept our power plants operating and managed lake levels to keep municipal and industrial water intakes covered. When drought conditions intensified during April, we began to reduce our use of hydroelectric generation throughout the Duke Energy Carolinas service area to preserve water in the reservoirs. This resulted in a systemwide reduction in hydroelectric generation of 67 percent during April-December compared to the average for the same months during the previous four years.

We also established an in-house Drought Mitigation Team to monitor and forecast drought effects on lake system storage throughout Duke Energy Carolinas’ service area and to make plans if the drought continues through the summer of 2008. As a result, several equipment and procedural modifications are either under way or being planned at nuclear and fossil stations to reduce drought-related risks. We also purchased an option for additional generating capacity that can be used during 2008, as another step to help ensure that the energy needs of our customers are met.

Regional water supplies

Many of the company’s reservoirs in the Carolinas also provide raw water to public water systems and industrial process water. As part of our Comprehensive Relicensing Agreement for the Catawba- Wateree Hydroelectric Project, we joined with 24 public water systems, several large industrial plants and state and federal agencies to form a Drought Management Advisory Group. This group designed and implemented a regional drought response plan. For the first time, Duke Energy and the other water intake owners across the Catawba-Wateree River Basin have coordinated their actions to reduce water consumption. The resulting savings have kept all large water intakes covered and operating. We also worked with public water systems that withdraw water from our other hydro reservoirs to encourage aggressive water conservation measures.

Coordinated Action

To improve long-term management of water resources in our region, Duke Energy and 15 public water system owners formed a nonprofit corporation called the Catawba- Wateree Water Management Group (WMG). Supported by member dues and other funding, the WMG will take actions to enhance water quantity and quality in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin, such as:

  • Establishing a groundwater monitoring network to improve the understanding of how groundwater affects surface water availability during droughts
  • Modifying existing water intakes to allow operation at lower lake levels
  • Optimizing water intake and return locations
  • Establishing water demand-side management goals and a plan to achieve them
  • The WMG is a first-of-its-kind partnership for a power company and public water system owners to pool their resources to protect and enhance their common water supply.

For up-to-date information on the drought and our response to it, visit