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Perdue: State beat goal in saving water
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ATLANTA — Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that the state reduced its water usage by 348 million gallons per day in November, exceeding the state’s goal of 230 million.

Perdue, at a news conference at the Capitol, said the reduction was enough water to supply 1.7 million households per day.

Systems in Northeast Georgia that met the 10 percent reduction included the cities of Toccoa, Demorest, Cornelia and Cumming, as well as Gwinnett County.

Gainesville averaged 15.89 million gallons per day, but needed to average 15.82 million in order to reach the 10 percent reduction.

"We will talk with those who did not (meet the 10 percent goal) and find out what their plans are," Perdue said. "We want to do this in an encouraging kind of way."

In October, Perdue directed the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to modify its permits for surface water and groundwater withdrawal, and drinking water systems in the 61 counties included in the level four drought designation to require a 10 percent reduction in water withdrawals.

The largest withdrawal of water in the region is by 97 permit holders who account for 98 percent of water use.

Perdue made it clear that Georgians are paying a price for the drought.

"This drought means more than dirty cars and dry lawns," Perdue said. "It means that businesses and families of our state that depend on water resources are struggling. Our farmers are hurting and our reservoirs are drying up."

The governor met Monday in Tallahassee, Fla. with his counterparts from Alabama and Florida, along with Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. He said he is optimistic that the states will reach an agreement on water by the Feb. 15 deadline.

"We will send our technical people and our policy people to Washington to meet with the other states and Secretary Kempthorne, Fish and Wildlife, the Corps of Engineers and other federal partners," Perdue said.

Perdue said Kempthorne, a former governor of Idaho, last week completed negotiations of a pact on use of water from the Colorado River, which covers California, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

The 20-year plan, which took effect with Kempthorne’s signature, resolved several legal disputes among water agencies in the states and formalized rules to cooperate during the ongoing drought gripping the region.

"We’ve got somebody there (Kempthorne) that knows the issue and can be very helpful in holding each of our state’s accountable to get a solution accomplished," Perdue said.

Georgia, Florida and Alabama have been engaged in a battle over water for nearly two decades.

He said construction of additional reservoirs would be an important part of the tri-state agreement.

"We will be treating the watershed as a whole, as a system," Perdue said. "In the Chattahoochee, we will determine how the headwaters of Lake Lanier, the upper reservoir, impacts West Point, Walter F. George, Lake Seminole and on down to the Apalachicola Bay. We will take a holistic approach, understanding that water upstream is like money in the bank."

He said that it is easy to get water to flow downstream, but impossible to send it back.