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May 28, 2008

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PO Box 908
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Jefferson, Georgia 30549


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City Expects EPD Word On Water Usage Next Week
Commmerce Seeks Exemption From 61-County Level 4 Drought Restrictions
The city of Commerce should know next week whether it will be removed from the 61 counties ordered to maintain level four status in the drought.
“We got the form last week from the EPD (Environmental Protection Division) that we’ve got to fill out for the request,” said Bryan Harbin, the city’s director of water and sewer services. “Once we submit the information, they say they will give us an answer in five business days.”
Harbin planned to submit the information this week.
According to Harbin, the EPD plans to consider each system individually based on storage capacity, stream flow and withdrawal. Harbin thinks Commerce could wind up in level two, which would allow washing of cars and watering of lawns on an odd-even basis.
“I ran some dummy numbers Friday. We would go to basically a level two,” he confirmed.
To date, the EPD has dictated water policy for the northern half of Georgia based primarily on the level of Lake Lanier, which supplies much of Metro Atlanta, not to mention Gainesville. Harbin says the EPD has indicated that is no longer the case.
“They say they’re basically looking at Lanier on its own, and every system has got to stand on its own,” he said. “If Lanier gives out of water and we have water, we’re not going to be subject to the same restrictions.”
The Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority, which owns and manages the regional Bear Creek Reservoir, also seeks removal from the level four restrictions, but it may have a tougher time.
Kevin Williams, who manages the reservoir for Jordan Jones & Goulding, reports that the stream flow in the Middle Oconee River could be a sticking point.
“The flow is 128 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Arcade today,” Williams said Tuesday. “One of our biggest concerns is the median average over a 21-year period. The average for this month is 264 cfs, so we’re looking at a substantial difference.”
In fact, conditions in the reservoir’s drainage basin are just about what they were last year at this time when the basin authority went into level one of its drought contingency plan (a 2.5 percent reduction in use) in May.
“If you look at the soil moisture level, the river flow and the reservoir level, they’re pretty close to the same numbers as last year,” Williams pointed out. “The reservoir is at full pool, the river is down substantially and the soil moisture is at low levels. We’re looking at the same conditions we were last year.”
One difference is usage. The water plant at the reservoir is treating about 5.4 million gallons per day, compared to 10.1 mgd last year — which helps keep the reservoir full.
As of Tuesday morning, the Commerce reservoir was four-tenths of a foot above full pool. The Bear Creek Reservoir was full.


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