The region celebrated a milestone on Oct. 14 when Lake Lanier reached full pool of 1,071 feet above mean sea level after the exceptional drought of 2007 and 2008. This is indeed good news, and it is appropriate to take note of the occasion.
During the drought, residents of metro Atlanta heeded the call to conserve. As a result of outdoor watering restrictions and conservation by residents, businesses and local governments, water use in North Georgia decreased by at least 10 percent every month of 2008 compared to 2007.
Efficient water use has continued this year. In September, water use in North Georgia was some 4 percent less than it was for September 2008, even though outdoor watering restrictions have eased.
That’s great news. It shows that residents of North Georgia are still conserving water. However, the recent rainy days may lead some to believe that it is no longer necessary. It’s easy to remember to use water more efficiently when we see our lawns turning brown under the hot, summer sun. However, conservation must be a priority for all of us all the time, even in times of above-average rainfall. And, we will certainly experience drought in the future.
The federal court ruling in July finding that water supply is not an authorized use of Lake Lanier has focused intense attention on metro Atlanta’s water supply challenges. The Governor’s Water Task Force, which is evaluating contingencies, has identified enhanced water conservation efforts as part of the overall strategy. Judge or no judge, however, we can’t take water for granted in North Georgia.
Leaders in Georgia and the Atlanta region have known this for a long time. In the early 1990s, Georgia became one of the first six states to adopt more efficient plumbing standards.
The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, created in 2001, has put in place a set of water conservation strategies that is required of all 15 counties, 91 cities and 61 water utilities in the district.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division enforces compliance through its permitting authority. No other metro region in the country brings together as many different jurisdictions and water systems to develop and implement water management plans that are enforced by an outside agency.
While the rains last, let’s be grateful that drought no longer plagues our state and our region. But, let us never forget to use water wisely.
If we develop the habit of saving water now, we can make sure we have enough clean water not only during the next drought, but for our children’s future as well.
Kit Dunlap is chairman of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District.
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