COVINGTON - The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority is one of 16 communities or water authorities to reduce consumption by 15 percent or more since November 2007.
Severe drought conditions resulted in the implementation of the State Drought Management Plan requiring local governments, businesses and residents to change water use habits and prompted Gov. Sonny Perdue to mandate a reduction in usage by at least 10 percent.
Twenty-three governments and authorities achieved that goal, with an additional 16 reducing by 15 percent or more.
The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority achieved an overall reduction of nearly 24 percent.
Executive Director Mike Hopkins attributed that to an aggressive plan of action that included eliminating leaks in treatment and delivery systems, resulting in a reduction of unaccounted water loss from 12 percent to 5 percent.
Implementation of water conservation rates for customers and initiation of a water conservation public education and outreach campaign also made the difference, Hopkins said.
"Water conservation here has been a community effort, and it is saving the county and its citizens money in the long run," Hopkins said. "We are trying to meet the demands of our growing community with conservation and our existing infrastructure and supplies, thus delaying water supply expansion projects further into the future."
State Climatologist David Stooksbury said in April that the three-year drought is over, but Level IV water restrictions remain in place.
Newton County and the city of Covington have petitioned the EPD to relax watering restrictions to allow additional outdoor watering and car washing.
Hopkins said he's hopeful residents will continue practicing conservation if the restrictions are relaxed.
"We're a little nervous right now if we can maintain the conservation we've worked hard to get. Hopefully, we won't go back to using lots of water," he said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.