U.S. Water News Online
ATLANTA -- Although the state is gripped by drought,
officials say water restrictions are more a sign of precaution than
of an outright shortage.
``If this dry weather continues, where will we be this time next
year? You don't want to be saying, `We shouldn't have put all that
water on the lawn,''' said Pat Stevens, chief of environmental
planning for the Atlanta Regional Commission.
Metro Atlanta counties were among the first to undergo mandatory
restrictions, banning outdoor residential water use from 10 a.m. to
10 p.m., and later including an odd-even system for watering based on
Yet the Atlanta water system, which serves about 1.5 million
people, is distri buting about 130 million gallons a day, well below
its capacity of 240 million.
``In the metro Atlanta region we're really lucky because we have
large federally owned and operated reservoirs -- Lake Lanier and Lake
Allatoona,'' said Nolton Johnson, chief of the water resources branch
of the state Environmental Protection Division of the Department of
And while those lakes, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, are below typical summertime levels, Johnson said, ``right
now we're in a good position as far as water availability.''
But state and local officials said they must look ahead to next
Two years of below-normal rainfall has reduced by half the volume
of water flowing into the region's two major reservoirs while
forecasts call for a hotter-than-normal summer.
Despite scattered thunderstorms in Georgia -- some of them quite
strong -- rainfall totals so far this year remain about a foot or
more below normal.
``We're getting ready to start on a long journey, and our gas tank
is half full,''' said Roy Fowler, general manager of the Cobb
County-Marietta Water Authority.
Watering restrictions have reduced overall consumption, but they
also have made people more mindful of water use.
``It reminds us all that, long-term, we need to do more about
water conservation,'' said Stevens of the ARC.
But water restrictions don't just serve to stretch supply, they
also dampen demand that can strain a water system.
When Paulding County homeowners recently turned on the taps after
weeks of no rain, demand in the growing county jumped from the
typical summertime usage of 7 million gallons a day to 13 million
gallons a day.
``There was no supply problem. It was physically impossible for us
to distribute any more water,'' said Paulding County Public Works
Director Mike Jones.
Paulding buys its water from the Cobb County-Marietta Water
In trying to meet the demand, the system's pumps are running
around-the-clock, and such heavy use ``shortens the life of your
pumps,'' Jones said.
Heavy demand on June 10 resulted in low pressure -- or no pressure
-- in some parts of Gwinnett County as residents there apparently all
watered their lawns at the same time.
Water systems aren't intended to handle peak demand for an
extended period of time, said Neal Spivey, director of water
production for Gwinnett County.
``It's like the arteries in your body -- the harder you pump, the
more stress you're putting on the system,'' Spivey said.
Adding the odd-even prohibition to the water restrictions solved
Gwinnett's pressure problems, Spivey said.
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