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House and Senate OK water-saving rules
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Identical water conservation bills that cleared both chambers of the legislature Wednesday send a message that Georgia intends to make the most of its allocation of the resource, lawmakers say.

The measure also has gotten a thumbs up from the Gainesville Public Utilities Department, which is responsible for treating and distributing water to some 49,000 customers in Hall County and will likely be under more stringent rules if the bills become law.

Along with charging various state agencies to incentivize and encourage water conservation, the bills that passed the House and Senate require any new residential or commercial building built after June 2012 to have water-efficient plumbing fixtures and restrict most municipal water users from watering their lawns between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The measure was introduced by Gov. Sonny Perdue who is currently in negotiations with Govs. Charlie Crist of Florida and Bob Riley of Alabama over the use of Lake Lanier’s resources.

Lawmakers who represent Hall County called the bill a proactive effort to show Florida and Alabama’s leaders that Georgia is trying to conserve water.

“I think it’s going to position us in a place as a state that we’ll be getting the most efficient use of whatever allocation of water is set aside to us,” said state Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain.

Mills and Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, both voted for the bill.

“It sends a message to the state of Alabama, whether they will accept it or not, and it sends a message to the state of Florida, whether they will accept it or not, that we are trying to conserve water,” Rogers said.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously on Wednesday, and the House passed the bill with a 166-5 vote. Although the bills which passed on Wednesday are identical, they are technically separate pieces of legislation and so they each “cross over” to the other chamber.

One version of the legislation must receive the approval of both chambers before it heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

If approved, suppliers of treated water in Georgia likely will be forced to implement leak-detection programs and perform annual audits of water loss.

But that should not be a problem in Gainesville, according to the city utility’s assistant director.

“We are doing or don’t have a problem with doing what’s in the bill,” said Tim Collins, assistant director of the city’s Public Utilities Department. “... Really, we think it’s good legislation, because we already do most everything in the bill.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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