County water is plentiful
But drought, watering restrictions remain

COVINGTON - The Newton County water supply is holding up well, based on a recent report given by Water Resources Director Karl Kelley to the Newton County Board of Commissioners.

City Pond is now at full pool, while Lake Varner is at just 1.1 feet below full pool, Kelley reported.

That puts the lake 3.3 feet higher than it was one year ago. Based on the December production rate of 8.49 million gallons per day (mgd), Newton County has a 436-day supply of water from Lake Varner alone.

With the continuation of the current rainfall pattern, Lake Varner should be at full pool by Feb. 1, Kelley predicted.

"We're in better shape than we were this time last year," Kelley said. "I don't want to give the wrong impression. We're still in a drought."

Kelley said eastern Newton County is still in a severe drought, while the rest of the county is in a moderate drought.

But the recent rainfall has helped, along with conservation efforts by citizens, he said. Water production is about 11 percent less than this time last year.

"Obviously, people listened to us last year when we and the rest of the state talked about conservation," he said.

The county has also been more proactive in addressing the situation than in years past, he said.

"In 2007, we just kind of stood back and watched. We've been more proactive. We've turned the pumps on from the river whenever we could," he said.

Outdoor watering is still prohibited, except on an odd-even basis based on address. Under this system, limited hand-watering of plants and yards is allowed for 25 minutes per day with a single hose that has an automatic shut-off nozzle. For more information, visit the county's Web site at www.co.newton.ga.us.

In other news, Kelley reported that construction of a $12.1 million expansion to the Cornish Creek Water Treatment Plant is on schedule.

Choate Construction began the project in July. Though there have been some delays due to inclement weather, the county's consultants predict it will be substantially completed - ready to produce water - by Nov. 4. Final completion will be in February 2010.

Construction is more than $30,000 under budget, primarily due to value engineering, which involves taking a second look at projects and finding ways to save money, according to Purchasing Director Tina Malone.

In this case, a substitute filter system saved the county more than $10,000, Malone said.

The expansion will increase the plant's peak capacity from 15 mgd to 25 mgd.

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