Georgia eased water restrictions in much of the state Thursday after winter rains helped relieve severe drought conditions, although most of metro Atlanta will remain under strict water use limits.
The state Environmental Protection Division said 86 counties across the state either no longer have drought-related water limits or have fewer restrictions, thanks to downpours that helped replenish reservoirs and streams.
But a swath of north Georgia remains under Level 2 drought response, limiting outdoor watering to two days a week. They include 12 counties that rely on the Chattahoochee River and Lake Lanier for water supply: Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Lumpkin, Paulding and White counties.
“Winter rains have brought needed relief to much of the state, but Lake Lanier, the Chattahoochee River and smaller streams in the region have been slow to recover,” said Richard Dunn, the director of the state EPD.
State regulators declared 53 north Georgia counties in “Level 1” drought in September as large swaths of the state plunged into extremely dry conditions, and in November Gov. Nathan Deal extended the order to 110 counties and banned fireworks in drought-stricken areas.
That designation required public water systems to inform customers about the dry conditions – and what they can do to conserve.
After the second-hottest summer in Atlanta’s recorded history, conservationists and water planners fear another sustained drought will suck reservoirs dry and shrivel crops.
At the time, half the state was in “severe” or “extreme” drought conditions, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. And the northwest corner of the state was deemed the worst category - “exceptional” drought.
But conditions have slowly improved since then. The drought center now reports that only a band of counties on Georgia’s northern border are in “extreme” drought and that no counties are locked in “exceptional” drought conditions.
Under Level 2 drought restrictions, outdoor landscape watering is only allowed two days. Even-numbered addresses and properties without numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Odd-numbered addresses may water Thursday and Sunday before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
Residents in counties under Level 2 restrictions are also prohibited from the following uses of outdoor water:
- Washing hard surfaces such as streets and sidewalks.
- Water for ornamental purposes, such as fountains.
- The use of fire hydrants, except for firefighting and public safety.
- Non-commercial washing of vehicles.
- Non-commercial pressure washing.
- Fundraising car washes.