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Gainesville official: Residents helped cut water use

POSTED: December 17, 2007 5:02 a.m.

GAINESVILLE — The director of Gainesville’s public utilities department is pleased with the city’s efforts to conserve water.

Gainesville cut its water use by more than 10 percent this November compared with November 2006 with its water customers using an average of 15.89 million gallons per day last month.

November was the first month of a state-mandated reduction in water use in which Gainesville has to reduce its use to 15.82 million gallons per day.

"I’m just totally surprised that we got that low," Randall said.

Late in October, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division announced that water withdrawal permit-holders in 61 North Georgia counties would have to reduce water use by 10 percent.

The 10-percent reduction was based on each permit-holder’s average daily water use during the winter months.

"Frankly, we did much better than I thought we were going to do," Randall said.

The little things, like people taking shorter showers and turning the water off while they brushed their teeth, aided in the city’s savings, Randall said.

"Things like that I think is what’s enabled us to meet (the reduction), and I’m just really pleased, frankly," Randall said. "I’m truly just thrilled that our customers responded."

Randall said continued public education will help the city cut the extra 69,000 gallons per day in the months to come.

Kevin Chambers, spokesperson for the EPD, said there are nearly 800 permit-holders in the level four drought response area affected by the mandate.

The EPD has not officially evaluated how well those permit-holders handled the first month of the required reduction. It has, however, been in contact with most of the affected permit holders, some of which have been sending in weekly reports of their water use.

"I think they’ve made some good progress," Chambers said.

By Dec. 10, permit holders must report their average daily water use for November to the EPD. Permit holders that did not hit the target will not be punished this time around, Chambers said.

"The first month here, I think we’re probably going to work with people and figure out where they’re running into problems," Chambers said.

However, fines for over consumption could be a possibility in the future, but the EPD is still hammering out its guidelines for enforcement, Chambers said.

Gainesville will have an easier time meeting the target in December and January than it did in November, Randall said.

"Typically, December and January are lower than November anyway," Randall said. "I would think that we’ll see it being slightly lower anyhow."

Last December, Gainesville used 336,000 gallons less water per day than last November.

The utilities department may also have an easier time meeting the target in the future if the EPD considers the city’s returns.

The public utilities department has asked the EPD to consider giving the city credit for the treated wastewater it returns to Lake Lanier. But the EPD has not officially announced any such concessions, but it has been discussed.

"Even if they were to give us those credits, I don’t think we’d change anything we’re doing," Randall said. "The program we’ve got seems to be conserving water."


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