County, city ask to relax water rules

COVINGTON - The county and city have agreed to petition the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for relaxed watering restrictions

Water Services Director Karl Kelley reported to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night that both Lake Varner and City Pond, the county's drinking water sources, are at full pool.

State Climatologist David Stooksbury said earlier this month that the three-year drought is over. Normal rainfall for Atlanta year-to-date is 17.31 inches; so far, the Atlanta area has received 18.8 inches.

With that in mind, the Newton County Drought Response Team, comprised of representatives from the county and its wholesale water customers, recommended applying to the EPD to lower the county's drought status from a Level IV to a Level IV C, which would relax watering restrictions. Both the city and county agreed to that earlier this week.

If the Level IV C status is approved, watering restrictions would be as follows:

· Outdoor watering would be allowed from midnight to 10 a.m. on an odd-even basis, determined by address. Those with odd-numbered addresses could water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and those with even-numbered addresses could water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. That would include washing cars and watering lawns.

Other requirements that would remain in place are:

· Hand watering for 25 minutes per day.

· Watering of new landscapes via an in-ground irrigation system, above ground hose-end sprinkler, soaker hose, drip or low-volume irrigation system during designated days and times for up to 10 weeks.

· Filling and refilling of swimming pools without restriction.

A four-month waiting period is required following declaration of the end of the drought before restrictions can be relaxed, Kelley said. That means the new restrictions would not go into effect until July.

The EPD requires that certain conditions be met to reduce restrictions. The county must prove it has a stable water supply sufficient to meet the needs of the citizens even if drought conditions return.

Kelley said Newton County meets those conditions, noting that from May 1, 2007, to January 1, 2009, Lake Varner never fell below 50 percent capacity.

In related news, construction of the Cornish Creek Water Treatment Plant expansion is still under way.

The $12 million expansion began in July 2008 and so far is under budget, Kelley reported.

The expansion will increase the plant's peak capacity from 15 million gallons per day to 25 million gallons per day.

Substantial completion of the project, or the date when water can be produced, is Nov. 4, with final completion to come in February.