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Bone dry conditions boost car washes, well diggers

POSTED: October 22, 2007 5:04 a.m.

If nothing else in the county, the drought has made the pockets of car wash owners and well diggers considerably greener.

Patrick McCabe, owner of Carnett’s Car Wash, said business has been better since the state has restricted people from washing their cars at home.

"I’m seeing some customers that I haven’t seen before who say they wash their car at home," McCabe said. "I’d say my business has increased due to the drought and the water restrictions."

Despite the drought, McCabe said people still should wash their cars because dirt and other pollutants could ruin the paint and the investment.

"I tell a lot of my customers even if they come in for a three-dollar express wash, it is good to get the dirt off," McCabe said. "You’ve got a big investment in your car, and when you go to trade it in, you could lose some serious money if your car hasn’t been maintained."

Carnett’s, which recycles water, takes eight to 10 gallons of fresh water to wash a car, McCabe said.

"You could probably use that much (water) taking a shower," McCabe said. "If we didn’t have a recycle system, we obviously would have to run everything fresh, and it would take us another 125 gallons to wash your car."

Even more than the car washing business, the well drilling business is far from running dry.

Barbara Hatcher, owner of Murphy Well Drilling and Pump Service, said since the watering restrictions were enacted business has blown up.

"We are covered up," Hatcher said. "It’s good for business, but that’s all I can say it’s good for."

Before the restrictions, her company installed about three to four wells per week, Hatcher said. Now, Murphy’s is booked for the next five weeks.

"We’re behind that far," Hatcher said.

"I think people are just panicking," Hatcher said. "I think they’re getting it in the back of their head that someday they may come out saying that we can’t drill wells. ... I think people are just panicking."

Currently there is no way to monitor water usage from a well.

"It’s your well; you do what you want to with it," Hatcher said. "Years from now if the water gets bad enough they will probably put meters on them — it wouldn’t surprise me."

Stanley Parker, owner of Stanley Parker Pump Sales and Service, said he does not see the day of metered wells coming in the near future. But in the days of the drought, anything is possible.

"It’s hard to say. We’re stepping into a lot of unknown territory that we’ve never actually been in before," Parker said. "Just like the deal with Lake Lanier, I never thought I’d ever see it go down like I have in the last year."

Parker, who has been in the well business for 38 years, said he is digging a lot of new wells, but since the state’s water restrictions have gotten tighter he has received more calls about activating wells that have been inactive for 10 or 15 years.

"People are wanting to start them back up again for outside watering and stuff like that," Parker said.

Some wells have run dry, and people are calling Hatcher to make the wells deeper.

Since they are less than 100 feet deep, some bored wells in the area have run out of water.

Because of their depth, Parker said most people are asking for drilled wells these days. He said drilled wells are less affected by drought conditions, because they pull water from a rock aquifer instead of surface water.

Parker said the water table drops with the sap of the trees, and most people run out of water in the winter months of December and January when tree sap is low and there are no leaves on the trees.

"Right now the wells in Hall County are holding up reasonably well," Parker said. "But the story won’t be told until December or January.

"If we don’t start having some wet weather this winter — really a lot of rain — then by late winter, early spring a lot of people are going to be in trouble."

Parker encourages people to conserve water.

"The biggest problem we have even with people who do irrigation is that a lot of people overwater," Parker said. "A lot of water is wasted."

Parker’s well can pump about 30 gallons a minute, but he said he does not use his well to water his lawn.

"I’m not risking my drinking water for my yard," Parker said. "I can replant a yard."

And Hatcher said people need to do more than conserve.

"We need to pray for some rain; we really do," Hatcher said. "We need to get together and pray and fast for some rain. We need it."



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