Lake Lanier’s levels have steadily improved this year amid above-average rainfall. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia removes drought restrictions across much of state

Georgia environmental regulators have eased outdoor water use restrictions across metro Atlanta and the northern part of the state, as significant rainfall helped relieve severe drought conditions that long gripped the region.

The Environmental Protection Division on Thursday lifted Level 2 restrictions in 12 counties across the state that limited outdoor landscape watering to two days a week and prohibited other types of water use, including noncommercial vehicle washing and pressure washing.

And it removed Level 1 restrictions in an additional 43 counties that required public water systems to launch campaigns to explain drought conditions and the need to conserve water to customers.

State officials last year feared another sustained drought would suck Georgia’s reservoirs dry and shrivel its crops. At the time, much of the state was classified by federal forecasters as locked in “severe” or “extreme” drought conditions.

But improving conditions have buoyed regulators. The National Drought Mitigation Center reported Thursday that not a single county in Georgia suffered from drought conditions — and that only a few regions were “abnormally dry.”

And state officials say Lake Lanier, metro Atlanta’s main source of drinking water, is in better shape thanks to above-average rainfall that his lifted its levels 5 feet since January.

“It is typically dry in the fall, but we expect the lake to continue to refill during the winter,” said Richard Dunn, the director of the state environmental department.

Regardless of drought, state law adopted in 2010 amid another epic dry spell allows landscaping watering only before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. daily to limit evaporation during the warmest part of the day.

The counties moving from a Level 2 to Level 1 drought response are Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Lumpkin, Paulding and White counties.

The counties no longer under any drought restrictions are Athens-Clarke, Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Butts, Carroll, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clayton, Dawson, Elbert, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Gordon, Greene, Haralson, Harris, Hart, Heard, Henry, Jackson, Jasper, Lamar, Madison, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Pickens, Pike, Putnam, Rockdale, Spalding, Stephens, Talbot, Taliaferro, Troup, Upson, Walton and Wilkes counties.

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