Covington meets goal
City cuts its water use by about 20 percent

COVINGTON - The city of Covington has met Gov. Sonny Perdue's goal of reducing water consumption by 10 percent or more for the month of November, the governor's office announced this week.

Covington Public Works Director Billy Bouchillon said the city has reduced consumption by about 20 percent from November 2006, though it has added 220 customers since that time.

"Even though our population has increased, our advantage is having industry," Bouchillon said. "Citizens have done their job, but industry has really stepped up, especially General Mills and FiberVision, in finding little things to save a lot of water."

Bouchillon said he appreciates all conservation efforts made by Covington customers and added, "Keep it up."

The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority did not meet the reduction goal.

"We're still trying to put some measures in place, and it will probably be next month or the month following that before we actually see some real benefits," said WASA Executive Director Mike Hopkins.

Use has actually increased by 1.1 percent from November 2006, Hopkins said.

However, Karl Kelley, director of Newton County Water Resources, has urged the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to evaluate the authority on a per customer basis, which would show a reduction of more than 2 percent.

The authority has added 849 customers since last November, an almost 4 percent increase in customer base, Kelley said.

In addition to making hydraulic improvements and working to repair leaks more quickly, the authority has locked off all irrigation meters, which are used solely for watering purposes, with no domestic use, Hopkins said.

Hopkins agreed the high residential customer base could pose a challenge in meeting the governor's goal.

While a large industry can easily make some adjustments to conserve water, it would take several hundred or several thousand residential customers to have the same impact, he said.

"The public at some point in time is going to have to get involved and do some of their own conservation measures," he said. Checking toilets for leaks and buying low-flow shower heads are examples of actions residents can take, he said.

"We're actively seeking out measures to conserve water, and we're inviting the public to help us out with this," he said.

Porterdale Hydroelectric Association also made the list.

Porterdale Hydroelectric is a privately-owned power plant that sells power to the Municipal Electric Association of Georgia and is not affiliated with the city, according to City Manager Tom Fox.

In October, Perdue directed the Georgia Environmental Protection division to modify its permits for surface and ground water withdrawal and drinking water systems in the 61 counties included in the Level Four drought designation to require a 10 percent reduction in water withdrawals.

On the whole, water permit holders as a group conserved approximately 15 percent more than last year's consumption levels, according to EPD officials.

"A 10 percent reduction translates to 230 million gallons a day. Well, I'm here to report that not only did we meet that goal - we exceeded it," Perdue said. "We have reduced water use by nearly 350 million gallons a day. This is enough water to supply 1.7 million Georgia households every day."

Newton County Water Resources has been working with utilities that purchase water from the county in meeting the conservation goal.

Overall, those utilities - including the cities of Porterdale, Oxford, Mansfield and Newborn - have reduced purchases of water by 6.3 percent, according to Water Resources Director Karl Kelley.

On a per customer basis, the county's utility customers have exceeded the 10 percent goal, Kelley said in a letter to the EPD.

Kelley said compliance enforcement will be handled on a case-by-case basis by the EPD. Enforcement action would be taken against the individual utilities and not the county, since the county is merely the water wholesaler, Kelley said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.