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Gainesville might reduce water for industry

State could require local governments to act

POSTED: October 23, 2007 5:01 a.m.

Gainesville city officials discussed ways to spare the waning water supply at Thursday’s work session.

Horace Gee, environmental services administrator for Gainesville, advised council members of a possible proposal by Carol Couch, director of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, to force local utilities to cut their water usage by a certain percentage. Couch’s proposal leaves the decision on where to cut usage in the hands of local authorities.

"I’m definitely not, from a utilities standpoint, looking forward to it," Gee said. "And I’m sure the council and mayor would not be looking forward to it as well."

Gee said the council should be prepared to make a decision about where to restrict water usage within a week.

The city will have to decide which industries’ water usage should be cut by examining where the city could save the most water, and the economic impact of cutting those industries’ water supply, Gee said.

"It may not be, as we’ve heard in recent weeks, just car washes or landscapers," Gee said.

In her speech Wednesday, Couch specifically mentioned water usage in Gainesville’s poultry industry, Gee said, but he insisted that the decision will be up to the council.

"We’ll be faced with making that decision. ... I would rather the state say ‘this is the market to (cut),’" Gee said.

Gee said the public utilities would share data with the council about the amount of water used by different businesses in the city before they would have to make the decision.

"I would think restricting the use for some larger businesses, not to put the smaller business completely out of business," he said. "Limiting the larger, I think, would be a better option for us as far as the community."

The City Council also discussed tightening the state-mandated outdoor watering restrictions. Since the level four drought restrictions were enacted three weeks ago, the city has issued nearly 400 citations to violators of the outdoor watering ban, Gee said. During the level two drought restrictions, the city issued 477 citations from May to September.

Gee said he was working on creating a link on the city’s Web site where Gainesville residents can report watering ban violators.

Many warning letters have been issued for first-offenders.

Councilman Danny Dunagan said the city should stop issuing warnings to watering-ban violators.

"If anybody doesn’t know we’re in a drought situation, then they’ve got their head in the sand," Dunagan said.

"And they’re being a little selfish," Councilwoman Ruth Bruner added.

Mayor Bob Hamrick suggested removing the exemption allowing 30 days of outdoor watering for homeowners with recent professional landscaping in their yards.

Gee said that would cut down on the number of responses the public utilities department would have to make, because the department is having to check on complaints that turn out to be legitimate uses of water.

"It’s been very taxing on my staff, but I’m not in here encouraging the council one way or the other," Gee said.

Assistant City Manager Kip Padgett said he and City Manager Bryan Shuler will meet with Gee and Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall later in the week to decide how and where to tighten the current watering restrictions.



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