Varner shuts as water hits all-time low
Lake 10 feet below full pool

COVINGTON - Lake Varner has been closed to all boating and fishing effective Monday.

Water levels in the lake are at an all-time low, according to Newton County's Water Resources Manager Karl Kelley.

The lake is currently at 10 feet below full pool of 701 feet, Kelley said, the lowest it's been at least since 1993, the first year for which records are available. The lake opened in 1988.

"Boat launch ramps are now out of the water. Newton County officials are closing the lake to prevent damage to boats, trailers, towing vehicles and to the ramps themselves as a result of the low water level. The county is very concerned that any further decline in the water level will create obstacles and potential boating hazards that are normally several feet below the water level," Kelley said.

Signs have been posted informing the public of the closing, Kelley said. Access to the boat ramps have been barricaded and the fee box has been closed.

Access to the overlook, picnic areas and trails has not been affected.

The lake level is currently at 691.8 feet. Full pool is 701 feet. Until now, the lowest level recorded was 692.8 feet.

In November, Gov. Sonny Perdue mandated that local water utilities reduce consumption by 10 percent from Dec. 1, to March 31, 2008.

Local utilities, including the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority the cities of Covington, Porterdale Oxford and Newborn, agreed to focus on increasing public education efforts.

"We don't have any control over that," Kelley said of the requirement to reduce consumption. "The only thing we can do is assist our customer jurisdictions that sell water to give ideas on how to conserve and help them in any way we can."

Kelley said water production has been on the decline.

Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, could not be reached for comment regarding consumption statistics.

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