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Report: Region is reducing water use but could do more

POSTED: October 10, 2012 3:19 p.m.

The metro Atlanta area “has made incremental progress in reducing water use” since a 2011 report that states the region could save as much as 160 million gallons of water per day through certain conservation measures.

That’s according to Atlanta-based advocacy group Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, which has released a 40-page update to its 2011 report, “Filling the Water Gap: Conservation Successes and Missed Opportunities in Metro Atlanta.”

“However, we can and should do more,” states the update, which was released earlier this month.

“Resolving the ongoing conflict with Alabama and Florida over allocation of Lake Lanier for water supply depends on our ability to show our downstream neighbors that we are doing all we can to conserve.”

In its 2012 update, the organization took another look at three conservation measures — fixing system leaks, replacing outdated plumbing fixtures and pricing “water right” — as well as some new ones, the report states.

As part of the update, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper evaluated nine water utilities that depend on Lake Lanier for water supply, including Gainesville.

The report states that Gainesville had 14.4 percent in “real” water loss, or leaks, exceeding the goal of no more than 10 percent.

“We expected the water loss number to be a little better for them, but because it’s a preliminary number, I don’t want to put too much into that,” said Laura Hartt, the Riverkeeper’s water policy director.

Kelly Randall, Gainesville’s public utilities director, said he believes the system’s real losses are actually “very small and that’s one of the reasons we’re doing a replacement project of all of our water meters.”

The Riverkeeper report states that at least 134-147 million gallons of water supply could be available to metro Atlanta “in the near term.”

As much as 16 million of those gallons could come from stemming water-loss reductions in Gainesville, the Atlanta Watershed Department, DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management and Douglasville-Douglas County Water & Sewer Authority.

The report lists other water savers: retrofitting old homes with new plumbing fixtures, 29-34 million gallons per day; limiting the sale of clothes washers and dishwashers to Energy Star models, 24 million gallons; more effective multitiered conservation pricing for residential customers, 27 million gallons; multitiered conservation pricing for commercial customers, 19 million gallons; and large-scale rainwater harvesting at homes and businesses, 27 million gallons.

“A serious commitment to water reuse over the next decade could add another 100-252 million gallons per day, bringing the total potential water savings up to 234-399 million gallons, enough water to serve 1.5-2.6 million people in the metro Atlanta region,” the report states.

Asked whether Gainesville is considering other conservation measures, Randall said: “I really believe that we are on top of our game, but we’re always looking to any suggestions that anybody has.”

Hartt, a key force behind the 2012 update and 2011 report, said she believes the city does a “pretty awesome” job with conservation overall.

“They are one of the leading utilities (in that effort),” she said. “They’re one of the pilots in terms of implementing a multifamily toilet rebate (program). They have a person on staff who is dedicated to dealing specifically with conservation. They are very active in promoting rain barrel workshops.

“We consider them one of our stronger partners.”

Wilton Rooks, vice president of the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association, said he is encouraged that Riverkeeper “recognizes municipal water utilities and businesses for the excellent job they are doing and for their goals for even more improvements.”

Rooks also serves on the governing board for ACF Stakeholders, a group comprising a variety of residents around the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin to discuss issues affecting the whole basin — most notably, water sharing.

“The entire metro area has demonstrated a commitment through water policies and financial investments to continue the decadelong trend of consuming less water and returning more water to the Chattahoochee River for downstream requirements,” Rooks said.

“Those investments and policies work to sustain Lake Lanier as an economic and quality of life resource for the entire state of Georgia.”


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