Wa­ter: School wa­ter us­age ex­am­ined

The Covington News - - LO­CAL NEWS -

All of the wa­ter util­i­ties which draw wa­ter from City Pond and Lake Varner — the ci­ties of Cov­ing­ton, Ox­ford, Por­terdale, New­born and Mans­field as well as the wa­ter and sewage au­thor­i­ties of New­ton, Jasper and Wal­ton Coun­ties — met to­gether last week to brain­storm ways to cur­tail wa­ter con­sump­tion.

In or­der to meet Per­due’s man­date, New­ton County must re­duce its aver­age wa­ter pro­duc­tion by 970,000 gal­lons per day ac­cord­ing to fig­ures pro­vided by the New­ton County Wa­ter and Sewage Au­thor­ity.

As New­ton County is pre­dom­i­nantly still res­i­den­tial, the bulk of the wa­ter con­ser­va­tion will have to be done by res­i­dents. As such the wa­ter util­i­ties are fo­cus­ing their ef­forts on ed­u­ca­tional aware­ness with pri­vate users.

Ac­cord­ing to Hop­kins, of the au­thor­ity’s 22,000 wa­ter users, only ap­prox­i­mately 200 of them are in­dus­trial/com­mer­cial ac­counts.

With wa­ter use spread out among such a large base of cus­tomers rather than with a few ma­jor in­dus­trial users, the job of polic­ing wa­ter use is very com­pli­cated for the county.

“It’s kind of hard to po­lice res­i­den­tial peo­ple,” Hop­kins said. “Hope­fully they will help par­tic­i­pate on their own in­doors.”

Since the meet­ing, all wa­ter util­i­ties have been busy com­pil­ing lists of their big­gest wa­ter users.

Ac­cord­ing to Hop­kins, four of the largest users of the Wa­ter and Sewage Au­thor­ity are mem­bers of the New­ton County School Sys­tem who share one mas­ter me­ter be­tween two schools.

Shar­ing a mas­ter me­ter to­gether, New­ton High School and Por­terdale El­e­men­tary made the list along with Cle­ments Mid­dle School and Fairview El­e­men­tary School who also share a mas­ter me­ter.

Veter­ans Mid­dle School and West New­ton El­e­men­tary School who share a me­ter on Brown Bridge Road made the list as did Al­covy High School.

“They’re not be­ing ex­ces­sive wa­ter hogs, it’s just they have ‘x’ num­ber of hun­dreds of kids,” said Hop­kins of the schools’ wa­ter use.

Other top wa­ter users of the Wa­ter and Sewage Au­thor­ity in­clude Ar­bor Lake Apart­ments and Sum­mer­set Apart­ments.

As with the schools, the two apart­ment com­plexes each have a sin­gle mas­ter me­ter which keeps track of the wa­ter us­age of hun­dreds of apart­ments said Hop­kins.

The city of Cov­ing­ton is the only wa­ter util­ity whose largest wa­ter cus­tomers are all in­dus­trial users. Cov­ing­ton City Man­ager Steve Hor­ton said the city has com­piled a list of its largest users and is cur­rently meet­ing with them to dis­cuss ways they can lower their wa­ter con­sump­tion.

Rev­enues in ques­tion

As the county and its mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties earn rev­enue from the sale of wa­ter, lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tors are closely mon­i­tor­ing wa­ter sales as they will af­fect the bud­get­ing process for the next fis­cal year.

“We cer­tainly are con­cerned about it and we’ll keep an eye on it be­cause there are debt ser­vice pay­ments that come out of it,” said County Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer John Mid­dle­ton.

Ac­cord­ing to Mid­dle­ton, the county uses wa­ter rev­enues to pay for the cost of op­er­at­ing the wa­ter and sewage sys­tem and to pay off debt from the con­struc­tion of wa­ter treat­ment plants.

Mid­dle­ton said the county had bud­geted $6.8 mil­lion in wa­ter rev­enues for FY 2007-FY 2008.

“That was not an ag­gres­sive num­ber that we bud­geted,” Mid­dle­ton said. “We bud­geted ex­pen­di­tures that matched that.”

With four months of the fis­cal year al­ready past, the county is an­tic­i­pat­ing a 10 per­cent de­cline on the re­main­ing eight months of the fis­cal year, which be­fore the re­stric­tions would have brought in an es­ti­mated $4.5 mil­lion.

There­fore the county is an­tic­i­pat­ing a de­cline of $450,000 in wa­ter rev­enues for the fis­cal year said Mid­dle­ton

If the county be­lieves that it will not be able to ser­vice the debt with the de­creased rev­enues Mid­dle­ton said it will likely have to con­sider rais­ing the in­ter­nal whole­sale wa­ter rate for cus­tomers which is cur­rently $1.51 per 1,000 gal­lons of wa­ter.

Mid­dle­ton said he didn’t ex­pect it to come to that though.

“We eval­u­ate the wa­ter rate an­nu­ally based on the cost of op­er­a­tions and debt ser­vice,” Mid­dle­ton said. “Ob­vi­ously if the vol­ume of wa­ter be­ing sold doesn’t cover op­er­a­tions plus debt ser­vice then the whole sale wa­ter rate that we charge would in­crease.”

Like­wise Hor­ton said the city of Cov­ing­ton was also fac­tor­ing in de­creased wa­ter rev­enues into its bud­get for the next year.

How­ever Hor­ton said the city has al­ready cut wa­ter con­sump­tion 16 per­cent over the pe­riod of De­cem­ber 2006 to Oc­to­ber 2007 com­pared to the same pe­riod from De­cem­ber 2005 to Oc­to­ber 2006.

Af­ter adding back the sav­ings from wa­ter which Cov­ing­ton will not pur­chase from the county be­cause of the wa­ter re­stric­tions, Hor­ton said the city is an­tic­i­pat­ing a $400,000 loss in wa­ter rev­enue over the next fis­cal year.

“We’re es­ti­mat­ing that our rev­enues in wa­ter and sewer are go­ing to be some­where be­tween 15 and 20 per­cent less than they were last year,” Hor­ton said.

Be­cause the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil re­cently paid off $3.2 mil­lion in Ge­or­gia En­vi­ron­men­tal Fa­cil­i­ties Au­thor­i­ties loans with the pro­ceeds from the sale of Cov­ing­ton Ca­ble, Hor­ton said the city has re­duced the amount of money it nor­mally ex­pends each year ser­vic­ing its GEFA debt and may not have to raise its wa­ter rates.

“That should off­set the city’s pay­back re­quire­ment to some de­gree,” Hor­ton said.

For tips on how to re­duce wa­ter con­sump­tion in your own home visit: www.con­serve­wa­ter­ge­or­gia. net.

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