COVINGTON - Wholesale purchases of water are down 6.3 percent from last year's average, according to Newton County Water Resources Director Karl Kelley.
Kelley said the reduction means local utilities are making progress with efforts to meet Gov. Sonny Perdue's goal of reducing water production by 10 percent.
Based on an average water production of 9.7 million gallons per day for December 2006 through March 2007, the county and utilities must reduce water production from Lake Varner and City Pond by 970,000 gallons per day, Kelley said.
Following the governor's mandate, the county's Water Resources Department joined with utilities that get raw water supply from Lake Varner or City Pond to form the Newton County Drought Response Team.
Participants include the cities of Covington, Porterdale, Oxford, Mansfield and Newborn and representatives from the Newton, Walton and Jasper Water and Sewerage Authorities.
Collectively, wholesale purchases have been reduced by 6.3 percent, though Walton County's purchases are not reflected in that number, Kelley said.
Walton County has purchased 37 percent more water from Newton County during the same period to make up for a loss of supply from Oconee County, he said.
"Including Walton's figures as a result of their extenuating circumstances would unfairly skew the numbers," he said.
Utilities have developed educational programs for consumers on how to reduce water consumption without a major impact and have also implemented irrigation lockouts, increased enforcement, leak detection programs, water audits and eliminated fire-hydrant flushing and non-essential water use within local governments, Kelley said.
Several utilities will also now provide dye kits to customers to test whether toilets are leaking, Kelley said, adding that customers should call their water provider to learn more.
In a draft letter to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, Kelley asked that rather than using collective wholesale purchase numbers, performance be evaluated on a per customer or per capita usage, since the growth in customer base and distribution has "completely overshadowed the conservation results."
Kelley said that when evaluated on a per customer basis, utility customers have exceeded the governor's goal of reducing water consumption by 10 percent.
The utilities are required to send regular reports to the EPD.
The response team will meet again in January.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.