DENVER, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Catawba-Wateree River Basin is now in a Stage 1 Drought impacting several counties throughout the Charlotte area. 

Not only are counties asking people to conserve water because of the drought, but in some places if you use over a certain amount of water, you’ll have to pay more. The basin covers Burke, Caldwell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties. 

Lake Norman is especially lovely this time of year. 

“It’s great because you can just get around the lake and see the leaves change so this is our favorite time of the year,” said Patti Crane, who has lived at her Lincoln County home on Lake Norman for seven years. 

But this year Crane can’t get around by boat. On Wednesday, Lake Norman was at 94.5 feet, well below its 97-foot target. 

“Definitely the lowest I’ve seen it,” said Crane referring to the lake levels. 

The water levels on Lake Norman have dropped well below the 97-foot target.

The Catawba-Wateree River Basin is now in Stage 1 Drought, meaning voluntary water conservation is now in effect. 

“We definitely want to be proactive now, what we’re doing now, before it gets any worse,” said Vanessa Leon, Public Affairs officer for Lincoln County. 

Each county decides how to implement the voluntary water cutbacks. 

“If they’re being mindful now about how much water they’re using, how much times they’re watering their lawn, limiting how many times a week they do laundry then we can possibly avoid more severe or mandatory restrictions in the future,” said Leon. 

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In Lincoln County, if you’re on county water and use more than 12,000 gallons of water at your house during a billing cycle, even under voluntary cutbacks, you’ll have to pay more. Also, the cost more than doubles if you use more than 12,000 gallons under mandatory restrictions. 

“Nobody wants to have more expenses than they need to,” said Crane. 

That’s why you won’t see too many green lawns or car washing. 

“Just to get even a rinse, you have to think twice about it now,” said Crane. 

But she says there is a bright spot to the dry weather. 

“This is the first time we’ve ever had access to a beach,” said Crane joking about the land now exposed at the shoreline because of the drought. “It still is a little muddy, it’s not like it’s a white sand beach but you can see there’s still quite a bit of land here.” 

Charlotte Water and the City of Lenoir are also asking people to voluntarily cut back on their water usage. 

Duke Energy says the last time the area hit Stage 1 Drought was the summer of 2015.