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Recent rain cant break drought
State water restrictions remain in place
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Prohibited outdoor water uses under a Level 2 drought response include:

• Washing hard surfaces such as streets and sidewalks.

• Water for ornamental purposes, such as fountains.

• The use of fire hydrants, except for firefighting and public safety.

• Noncommercial washing of vehicles.

• Noncommercial pressure washing.

• Fundraising car washes.

The following activities are allowed under a Level 2 drought response:

• Irrigation of new and replanted plant, seed or turf may be done at any time of day for 30 days after installation.

• Irrigation of personal food gardens may be done at any time of day.

• Drip irrigation or irrigation using soaker hoses may be done at any time of day, and hand-watering with a hose with automatic cutoff or handheld container may be done at any time of day.

• General landscape watering may be done after 4 p.m. and before 10 a.m. on the designated days.

Source: Georgia Environmental Protection Division

Restrictions on outdoor water use remain in effect despite recent rains as North Georgia remains in a severe drought.

State conservation officials with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources are warning residents of metro Atlanta to continue saving water despite early summer rain in the region.

Don’t be fooled by the upward creep of Lake Lanier.

“If you asked the average person on the street, they wouldn’t think we were in a drought” because of rainfall in the past two weeks, said Kit Dunlap, a founding board member of the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District, adding that water use tends to increase after rain as locals relax about lake levels.

But it takes a lot more than a few storms to snap out of a drought.

“Things have gotten better. We’ve gotten good rainfall in April,” said Richard Dunn, director of DNR’s Environmental Protection Division. “I think the problem there is that’s not going to make up for the past 12 months.”

Much of North Georgia remains in a Level 2 drought that’s affecting streams, reservoirs, groundwater and lake levels. The dry spell has been hanging around for almost 50 weeks, according to the division, and it left Lake Lanier at its lowest level for April since the 2008 drought, Dunn said.

A Level 1 drought only requires water utilities to put out the word that customers should conserve water. During a Level 3 drought the state issues a ban on most personal outdoor water uses. Dunn said that recent rain allows the state to stave off the most severe drought response for now.

Some areas of North Georgia are 12 to 16 inches behind their 6-month goals for rainfall, and for much of April Lake Lanier was 8 feet below full pool. Depending on the summer, that could drop another 6 feet before fall.

The drought in the north portion of the state — part of a dry patch stretching from eastern Mississippi to western South Carolina — is expected to last at least until the end of June, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The worst of the drought affects the band of counties sitting in the mountains north of Hall — bad news for Lake Lanier, as the North Georgia mountains are home to the streams and small rivers that feed the lake and waters south.

As a result, 12 counties that rely on Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River remain under the state’s drought restrictions: Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Lumpkin, Paulding and White.

Residents in these 12 counties may not use water to wash streets and sidewalks, for fountains, through fire hydrants except for firefighting and public safety, to wash personal vehicles, for personal pressure washing, or for fundraising car washes, according to a Tuesday announcement from the division.

Homes with even numbers may water their lawns on Wednesdays and Saturdays; homes with odd numbers may water on Thursdays and Sundays, according to Dunn. All watering must be between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.

“Our primary goal is to make sure public drinking water systems have a sufficient amount of supply for their customers,” he said.

The relatively new rules governing how and when people can use drinking water were adopted by the state in 2014, according to division spokesman Kevin Chambers.

It’s up to the state’s water customers — municipal water utilities — to enforce the 3-year-old rules.

“We do a lot of work to get that message out to people,” said Linda MacGregor, water resource director for the city of Gainesville. “We’re posting it around and we have it on our social media pages.”

Along with getting the word out, the state requires municipalities to fine people breaking drought restrictions. MacGregor said her department makes about 50 calls a month to people watering outside of the allotted times. In most cases, homeowners simply weren’t aware of the restrictions.

Gainesville also works to reduce its own water use. The water system has a leak-detection system in place that it uses to find and patch problems with its pipes. It distributes kits to customers that they can install in shower heads and faucets to reduce water use.

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