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Water use increases in 2009

COVINGTON -- What a difference a year makes.

Newton County residents used more water in 2009 than the prior year, but thanks to plenty of rain, the water supply is in "very good shape," according to Water Resources Director Karl Kelley.

Lake Varner, where the county draws the majority of its drinking water, is at full pool and has been since October, Kelley said. That's despite the fact that in 2009, the average daily water production was 10.46 million gallons per day, up from 9.89 million gallons per day in 2008, when the drought was in full force and so were watering restrictions.

Normally, the lake is at full pool at the beginning of the year through the first of May and then the elevation starts dropping as usage increases during the summer months, Kelley said. By October, usage drops again and the lake fills back up -- that's also when the rainy season starts.

The lake level usually drops between 2 and 4 feet during the summer, but during the drought, it dropped as much as 10 feet.

However, "This year, because of the rains we had in the summer, we didn't have as much draw down as we normally have," Kelley said, noting that less pumping was required from the Alcovy River.

The September flood also helped with the water supply, Kelley said, noting that rainfall totaled between 52 and 54 inches for the year, 6 to 8 inches more than normal.

"We've gotten some complaints from people who've never seen normal rainfall since they've lived in Newton County," Kelley said. "We've had some complaints of standing water in yards or water flowing from neighbors' yards to them, when that's just the normal course of events."

With total water volume of 3.85 billion gallons, at an average annual production level of 10.46 million gallons per day, Newton County has a 368-day, or approximately one year, water supply, Kelley said.

In related news, the expansion of the Cornish Creek Water Treatment Plant is nearing completion. The deadline for final completion is Feb. 17.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division gave verbal approval for the plant to operate in December, and written notification from EPD increasing permitted plant production to 25 million gallons per day is expected to arrive at any time.

The new plant is already operating while some equipment at the older portion of the plant is being replaced, Kelley said.

"The new plant is online and making water right now, so if your water tastes better, it's because it's from the new plant," he joked.