County or­dered to cut wa­ter use by 10 per­cent

New­ton County re­quired to re­port daily wa­ter use to Ge­or­gia En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Rachel Oswald

In the midst of the cur­rent drought, which shows no signs of end­ing, Gov. Sonny Per­due has or­dered 61 North Ge­or­gia coun­ties — in­clud­ing New­ton County — to cut wa­ter con­sump­tion by 10 per­cent.

The new re­stric­tions went into ef­fect on Thurs­day.

“We don’t want the pu­bic to panic,” said Mike Hop­kins, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the New­ton County Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Author­ity. “We want the pub­lic to rec­og­nize that we are in a sit­u­a­tion. It’s go­ing to have to take some self-polic­ing from all of us.”

Ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from his of­fice, the gov­er­nor has di­rected the Ge­or­gia En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion to change cur­rent wa­ter per­mits for the 61 coun­ties to ac­count for a 10 per­cent re­duc­tion com­pared to the per­mit holder’s wa­ter us­age dur­ing last year’s win­ter sea­son.

Based on the av­er­age wa­ter pro­duc­tion of 9.7 mil­lion gal­lons per day for the pe­riod of De­cem­ber 2006 through March 2007, New­ton County is re­quired to re­duce av­er­age wa­ter pro­duc­tion by 970,000 gal­lons per day

On Wed­nes­day the county or­ga­nized a meet­ing of all wa­ter per­mit hold­ers in the county to dis­cuss how to bring the county’s con­sump­tion lev­els down. Ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from County Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer John Mid­dle­ton, wa­ter sup­ply util­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Cov- in­g­ton, Por­terdale, Ox­ford, Mansfield, New­born, the New­ton County Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Author­ity, the Wal­ton County Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Author­ity and the Jasper County Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Author­ity were at the meet­ing.

The Jasper and Wal­ton au­thor­i­ties at­tended the meet­ing be­cause they also draw some of their wa­ter from the county’s reser­voirs: City Pond and Lake Varner.

Out of dis­cus­sions from the meet­ing a con­sen­sus was reached by all util­i­ties present that they would agree to adopt the fol­low­ing steps as a first mea­sure of com­pli­ance with the gov­er­nor’s or­der.

• A com­pre­hen­sive list of wa­ter con­ser­va­tion tips will be pro­vided to all cus­tomers, pri­mar­ily through in­serts in the wa­ter bills and me­dia ad­ver­tise­ments.

• Each ju­ris­dic­tion’s Web-site will of­fer ad­di­tional tips and in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the drought and wa­ter con­ser­va­tion.

• Wa­ter con­sump­tion will be high­lighted on wa­ter bills to in­crease con­sumer’s aware­ness of their wa­ter us­age.

• A weekly “Wa­ter Us­age Re­port Card” will be pro­vided to me­dia out­lets to main­tain pub­lic aware­ness of con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

• The af­fected cham­bers of com­merce will be asked to as­sist by ed­u­cat­ing their mem­ber­ship on wa­ter con­ser­va­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties.

• Road­side signs will be used to in­crease cit­i­zen aware­ness of con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

• The util­i­ties will con­tact their high­est us­age cus­tomers to co­or­di­nate con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

• Util­i­ties will lock­out ir­ri­ga­tion me­ters (au­to­matic sprin­kler sys­tems for lawns).

The util­i­ties will meet again to­gether the first week of De­cem­ber to as­sess the suc­cess of their con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

The county is now re­quired to re­port daily wa­ter pro­duc­tion num­bers each week to EPD. Th­ese num­bers will also be shared with lo­cal util­i­ties to keep them in­formed on the suc­cess of their con­ser­va­tion ef­forts. EPD will en­force per­mit re­stric­tions and im­pose fines for non­com­pli­ance.

Hop­kins de­scribed the meet­ing as very pro­duc­tive with all at­ten­dants in agree­ment on the need for more pub­lic in­volve­ment in con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

“It is crit­i­cal,” Hop­kins said. “Peo­ple need to know that this is some­thing that is not go­ing to change in the next 90 days. It’s go­ing to take some life style changes at home, at work, at play and we need to take it se­ri­ously.”

While the util­i­ties are still ascer­tain­ing who their high­est users are, be­cause the ma­jor­ity of users in un­in­cor­po­rated New­ton County are res­i­den­tial users and not large in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial users, it will take con­certed ef­forts on the part of res­i­dents to re­duce the county’s con­sump­tion.

Of the ap­prox­i­mate 22,000 cus­tomers of the county Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Author­ity, Hop­kins es­ti­mated that only 200 of those ac­counts are com­mer­cial.

“There’s not a whole lot of wa­ter us­age there,” Hop­kins said.

The ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the new wa­ter re­stric­tions on busi­nesses (and their profit mar­gins) are not yet known, but Hop­kins stressed that util­i­ties will part­ner with their ma­jor in­dus­tries and com­mer­cial busi­ness to come up with so­lu­tions to­gether rather than sim­ply is­su­ing or­ders.

Cov­ing­ton City Man­ager Steve Hor­ton said the city was cur­rently com­pil­ing a list of its 50 top wa­ter users and would be in con­tact with them soon to dis­cuss ways they can lower their wa­ter con­sump­tion.

“We will be meet­ing face-to­face with in­dus­trial users to talk to them about the kind of things that they can do,” Hor­ton said. “Gen­eral Mills called us and even though they’ve made some sig­nif­i­cant strides, they spoke up and said we want to be part of the so­lu­tion. It’s good when you’ve got big com­pa­nies who do that.”

Hor­ton said Cov­ing­ton has al­ready put in place new re­stric­tions of its own such as no more wa­ter­ing the lawns of pub­licly main­tained land and no more wash­ing of city ve­hi­cles un­less ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary, in­clud­ing po­lice cars and fire trucks.

“There are ar­eas in all of our op­er­a­tions that we’ve al­ways tried to main­tain a cer­tain de­gree of clean­li­ness,” Hor­ton said. “In those cases un­less it’s just abso- lutely es­sen­tial of some piece of equip­ment, we’re sus­pend­ing those un­til fur­ther no­tice.”

Hor­ton said he has heard from Cov­ing­ton Fire Chief Don Floyd that the fire de­part­ment will no longer be do­ing fire hy­drant flow test­ing and back­wash­ing ap­pa­ra­tus fire pumps un­til fur­ther no­tice

The af­fect of the re­stric­tions on New­ton County and mu­nic­i­pal rev­enue streams, which earn money from the sale of wa­ter to cus­tomers, is, also, not yet known.

Ac­cord­ing to New­ton County Wa­ter Re­sources Di­rec­tor Karl Kelley, pool lev­els at Lake Varner are at 693.2 feet above sea level which means that the reser­voir is 60 per­cent full (full ca­pac­ity is 701 feet).

City Pond is ac­tu­ally near to full ca­pac­ity said Kelley with pool lev­els at 24 feet (full ca­pac­ity is 25 feet).

“The rea­son City Pond is so full is we are able to pump from the Al­covy River al­most con­tin­u­ously so we’ve been able to recharge City Pond,” Kelley said.

Ac­cord­ing to Kelley at cur­rent con­sump­tion lev­els the county has a seven to eight month wa­ter sup­ply left in the reser­voirs. Once the new wa­ter re­stric­tions are in place, that sup­ply will be stretched out fur­ther.

“I’m a firm be­liever that we need to con­serve this wa­ter be­cause ev­ery­thing that we sus­tain in this win­ter is go­ing to help us in the sum­mer,” Hop­kins.

Hop­kins en­cour­aged mem­bers of the pub­lic to call the Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Author­ity with their ques­tions on the new re­stric­tions.

“We want them to call us. We want to talk to them,” Hop­kins said. “I think we can work through th­ese prob­lems. The worst thing we can do is have a panic.”

The New­ton County Wa­ter and Sewer Author­ity can be reached at (770) 385 2075.

For tips on how to cur­tail your wa­ter con­sump­tion visit www.­ter_­con­ser­va­tion.

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