Water Director: Supply in good shape
Restrictions remain in place

COVINGTON - The Newton County water supply is in better shape than it was last year, but "we're not out of the woods yet," Water Resources Director Karl Kelley told the Board of Commissioners Tuesday night.

As of Monday, Lake Varner was at 696.8 feet, a foot higher than it was the same date last year, Kelley said. That puts the lake at 4.6 feet below full pool.

Meanwhile, City Pond was at 24.4 feet, just barely below full pool level of 25 feet.

In August 2007, City Pond was at 18.6 feet, an extreme low caused by failure of a dam, Kelley said.

Water production is currently at 11.45 million gallons of water per day versus 13.94 million gallons per day being produced in August 2007. Water consumption is at 10.5 million gallons per day compared to 13.1 million gallons from last year.

Kelley attributed the lower water consumption to efforts made by citizens to conserve water, restrictions on watering and public outreach efforts.

He said the public mindset has changed through education and the county is taking a more proactive stance on drought and conservation efforts. In addition, drought conditions have been downgraded from extreme to severe.

"I think we're a little bit better off than we were last year. I don't think we're out of the woods yet, so to speak," Kelley said.

The worst case scenario, he said, would be little or no rainfall for the remainder of the year, with consumption patterns at last year's 13.1 million gallons per day rate and hot, dry weather.

In that case, water consumption would be 1.2 billion gallons more than can be pumped into Lake Varner, though City Pond would likely remain at 1 foot below full pool, since water can be withdrawn from the Alcovy River without restriction, Kelley said.

A more likely scenario is continued rainfall and mild weather, with consumption remaining at the current rate of 10.5 million gallons per day, he said.

If that theory holds up, water consumption would be at about half a billion gallons more than can be replenished in the lake, with City Pond remaining at 1 foot below full pool, he said.

Though some counties across the state, including Rockdale, have successfully petitioned the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to ease up on watering restrictions, Newton County has adopted a "better safe than sorry" attitude and kept Level IV drought restrictions in place.

Newton residents can hand-water for 25 minutes between midnight and 10 a.m. on an odd-even basis.

Odd-numbered addresses can water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Even-numbered addresses can water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Hand-watering is defined as one person with one garden hose with a spray nozzle that automatically shuts off when it is released.

Swimming pools may be filled or refilled without limitation, and newly installed landscapes can be watered up to three days per week from midnight to 10 a.m. for up to 10 weeks, but only if the water user participates in the Outdoor Water Use Registration Program.

Details are available at www.urbanagcouncil.com.

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