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May 28, 2008

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Basin group wants drought restrictions lifted
Jackson County water system customers may get to water their lawns with sprinklers and irrigation systems in the near future.
The Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority, which manages the Bear Creek Reservoir that supplies Jackson County, voted this (Wednesday) morning to prepare data so member water systems can appeal to the Environmental Protection Division for relief from the current drought restrictions.
That will allow the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority to apply to the EPD for a relaxing of drought restrictions.
Bill Martello of Jordan, Jones & Goulding, Inc., which manages the reservoir and water plant, explained the options for getting relief from the EPD.
Based on the current reservoir level, stream flow in the Middle Oconee River and the soil moisture content, Martello projected that the authority would “qualify” for any one of three relief scenarios put forth by the EPD in recent weeks.
Some 55 counties in North Georgia remain under a state level four restrictions, the major feature of which is limiting outdoor watering to 25 minutes a day with a hand-held hose and automatic nozzle on an odd-even schedule.
The EPD now offers three alternatives, levels 4A, 4B and 4C, which offer watering one to three days a week respectively, assuming water systems can demonstrate that their systems can handle the additional water usage.
The authority vote Wednesday was to seek the 4A designation, to allow watering with sprinklers and sprinkler systems one day a week.
“The Operations Committee recommends one day a week rather than three days a week,” commented Gary Dodd, chairman of the authority’s Operations Committee.
Each of the water systems must apply for relief individually, but those using water from the Bear Creek Reservoir will all use the same data.
Other water departments, such as those in Jefferson, Commerce, Hoschton, Braselton, Maysville and Nicholson, would submit applications based on their own data related to water storage and usage.
Members of the county water authority have repeatedly expressed a desire to get the EPD to relax its restrictions so the authority can sell more water to improve its cash flow.
Officials at the basin authority agreed to leave it to utility directors to work out a schedule by which homeowners would be assigned a day each week they could water, based on addresses.


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