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City could begin saying yes to developers
Easing of restrictions makes more water available
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The city of Gainesville will resume issuing water availability letters to developers after a suggestion from the city’s utilities director that some restrictions could be eased.

Kelly Randall, director of the Gainesville Public Utilities department, suggested Thursday that some restrictions the city had put in place in the fall could be eased a bit after the state lifted the mandatory reduction in water use.

Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch ended an order Tuesday requiring utilities in 61 North Georgia counties to reduce water use by 10 percent. The outdoor water ban remains in effect for Gainesville, as well as other utilities that draw water directly out of Lake Lanier.

Randall, who attended a meeting of the drought response committee Tuesday in Atlanta, told City Council members that Couch said people in North Georgia had been doing a good job of conserving water.

"Our customers have done great, even this month right now, we’re some 3 to 4 million gallons a day less than we were last year," Randall said.

Before November, Hall County and Gainesville were jointly permitted to use 35 million gallons of water on a peak day, but were relegated to using only 15.82 million gallons of water per day as a result of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s mandate.

As a result, Gainesville council members passed a resolution making water unavailable for new development until the drought situation improves and the state loosened its water-use restrictions. The resolution included other measures making Gainesville water restrictions even more restrictive than the those mandated by the state as part of a level 4 drought response.

But Randall, as Couch had done on Tuesday, stressed that Lake Lanier still is in dire condition and water bans aren’t being totally lifted.

"Truly, Lake Lanier and the Chattachoochee River (are) in such dire straits compared to last year," he said.

At Thursday morning’s City Council work session, Randall suggested the city ease that restriction, as well as the restriction on power washing.

"Since our permit has been restored, we feel like we need to go ahead and move ahead and be able to begin reissuing those water availability letters," Randall said. "I think that, quite frankly, we’re going to find there’s not all that many of them, because of the economy. But this is an economic issue, and I think that we need to go ahead, today, and begin reissuing those if you concur with that."

The city will begin issuing water availability letters immediately.

In addition, Randall suggested the city’s restrictions on power washing allow for other uses, such as cleaning driveways; restrictions still would allow only professionals to power wash.

Randall said he plans to submit a formal resolution to the council at the next work session, then the city could vote on the resolution at the following meeting.

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