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Governor forms water task force
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Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday the creation of a task force to develop water contingency plans across the state.

Perdue’s announcement comes on the heels of the state’s filing of a notice to appeal a July ruling that limits Georgia’s use of Lake Lanier for water supply and is part of the governor’s four-pronged strategy for addressing the impact of the ruling.

The other strategies include congressional action, negotiations and appeal of the decision.

"While I am confident we will be successful in securing the ability to draw water supply from Lake Lanier, we cannot take that for granted and must plan accordingly," said Perdue in a news release. "We will consider conservation measures as well as opportunities to enhance our water supply options."

The task force will include several dozen leaders from business, government and environmental organizations. It will meet throughout the fall and present recommendations before the January 2010 legislative session.

Though other task force members have not been announced, Coca-Cola Enterprises Chief Executive Officer John Brock and Tim Lowe of Lowe Engineers have agreed to serve as co-chairmen of the task force, according to the news release.

"We applaud Gov. Perdue for taking this action and convening this water task force to address conservation and water supply," Brock said in the news release. "Water is the most pressing issue facing metro Atlanta and Georgia today. The business community stands ready to support this effort and lead, where necessary, to ensure that our quality of life and economy are sustainable for the long term."

A July 17 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson gives Georgia three years to make a deal with Alabama and Florida over the use of the reservoir or have Congress reauthorize the lake’s use.

Absent a successful appeal, a negotiated deal or an act of Congress, Gainesville faces the possibility of losing more than half of the water it now draws from Lake Lanier.

Magnuson’s ruling means Gainesville would have to return to its original withdrawal permit of 8 million gallons per day. That number is a throwback to the average water consumption the utility had in 1975, when it served fewer than one-third of the customers it has today, according to Jeremy Rylee, mapping coordinator for the utility.

By contrast, Gainesville’s 46,648 water customers used an average of 18.48 million gallons of the resource per day in June, according to reports compiled by the utility.

Gainesville and Hall County officials are currently working on plans for alternative water resources in the county. The county is currently in the permitting process to build Glades Farm reservoir in North Hall, and the city recently announced plans to build a water treatment plant on the existing Cedar Creek Reservoir.

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