Water restrictions are being lifted in Hall County and 54 other Georgia counties near Atlanta after substantial rainfall in recent months.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division announced Thursday morning that the following counties are no longer subject to outdoor watering restrictions: Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Lumpkin, Paulding and White counties.
For months, Hall County and the others have been under a level 2 drought response, meaning homes and businesses were only allowed to water their landscapes two days per week. Property owners were also blocked from washing their cars at home and from non-commercial pressure washing.
A level 1 drought response only requires public water systems like the Gainesville Department of Water Resources to “conduct a public information campaign to explain drought conditions and the need to conserve water,” according to the state’s announcement. A level 1 response includes no water use restrictions for homeowners.
“Substantial rainfall over the past few months has led to significant improvement in streamflows and reservoir levels” said EPD Director Richard Dunn in the Thursday announcement.
Much of the state’s water conservation efforts in North Georgia and Atlanta focus on Lake Lanier, the area’s source of drinking water controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Dunn said that water management and above-average rainfall have led Lake Lanier’s water level to increase five feet since January.
In August, the Lake Lanier Association urged the state to keep water restrictions in place to ensure that the lake remained high through the end of summer and fall, when water levels historically drop to their lowest points of the year.
“The association believes that ‘hope is not a strategy,’” the LLA said in early August. “We urge all agencies to adopt a strategy of keeping Lake Lanier as full as possible at all times due to the critical dependency on the lake for Metro Atlanta water supply and downstream requirements.”
Lowering the drought response level would signal to water users “that there is no more need to conserve water while just the opposite is the case,” the association said.
Hall County and the 11 other counties in Metro Atlanta have been under a level 2 response since November 2016, according to Georgia EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers.
In a larger number of counties, Georgia EPD lifted all drought restrictions: Athens-Clarke, Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Butts, Carroll, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clayton, Dawson, Elbert, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Gordon, Greene, Haralson, Harris, Hart, Heard, Henry, Jackson, Jasper, Lamar, Madison, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Pickens, Pike, Putnam, Rockdale, Spalding, Stephens, Talbot, Taliaferro, Troup, Upson, Walton and Wilkes counties.
All residents are still required to only water their lawns before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. to avoid wasting water during the hottest parts of the day.