Forsyth County plans to take neighboring Hall County up on an offer to participate in the planning and pursuit of the Glades Farm Reservoir.
County commissioners voted 4-1 on Tuesday to notify Hall of their interest in being a partner in a new water resource the counties and others could share.
If everything were to work out, Forsyth could potentially have access to the water capacity in five to 10 years, said Tim Perkins, director of the county’s water and sewer department.
The county currently buys its water from Cumming, which has a permit to withdraw water from Lake Lanier.
The current water contract between the city and county expires in 2012.
On Thursday night, Hall County commission Chairman Tom Oliver said the agreement with Forsyth essentially means that if Hall County ends up having surplus water for sale, Forsyth County would like to be given a chance to be on the list as a purchaser.
“We anticipate that Forsyth County will say, ‘If (Hall) were to have water for sale, that we would like to be in consideration to purchase it,’” Oliver said. “And there’s a chance that we could have water for sale. We hope we do. We want to be the raw water provider for this area.”
Forsyth commissioners have not decided whether they will renew the Cumming agreement, nor have they been able to secure a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow the county to withdraw its own water from the lake.
The reservoir is planned for the Glades Farm property in northeastern Hall County.
Though Forsyth wouldn’t have direct access to the reservoir, it “could supply storage capacity outside of Lake Lanier,” Perkins said.
He discussed examples of other counties using a river as a conduit for releasing water upstream and taking it in downstream.
Forsyth could either pump the stored water to the county plant or get a permit to have it released in the lake and brought into the county through the existing uptake, Perkins said.
“It seems to be the best regional location for a reservoir, aside from Lake Lanier,” he said.
Water has become a particularly pressing issue for local governments.
In July, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that withdrawals from Lanier are illegal, since the lake was not built to supply water.
“Since Judge Magnuson’s ruling severely threatens our ability to use Lake Lanier, we have re-evaluated the Glades Reservoir project,” Hall County’s letter states.
With the future of Lanier as a water source uncertain, both counties are looking for other options.
Hall initially designed a reservoir that could hold a supplemental 6.4 million gallons per day.
The potential loss of Lanier caused the county to adjust its withdrawals from the Chattahoochee River, increasing the potential capacity significantly.
A larger intake prompted Hall officials to seek partners in planning the reservoir.
Though Hall County didn’t ask for any money in its letter, a financial commitment would be needed in the future should the project come to fruition, said County Manager Doug Derrer.
Prior to joining Forsyth government, Derrer was a longtime employee of Hall County.
In a written response to Hall, Forsyth officials note that they will not make any monetary promises at this time.
Commissioner Brian Tam opposed the measure.
Tam said Forsyth should continue to work with Cumming since the city provides the county’s only current access to water.
The commission also decided to extend an invitation to city leaders to have input in working on the reservoir.
“I think we’re faced with a regional situation here,” Tam said. “We should reach out to the city of Cumming. We need to include them in any water plan that we have.”