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Water rules loosen for Jackson County, not Barrow
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ATHENS — Get your garden hoses and personal irrigation systems ready — Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority customers can now irrigate their lawns once a week.

However, Barrow County will likely remain under the current water restrictions.

The Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority discussed and unanimously approved a motion to allow the authority’s four member counties — Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Jackson and Oconee — to move from Level 4 to Level 4-A drought response status if the counties so choose, following the state Environmental Protection Division’s recent approval of the change. The authority met Tuesday in Athens.

"Level 4-A would allow you to continue with all the outdoor water uses specified today, but it would also add to that the ability to have an additional one day a week for irrigation, and that’s from midnight to 10 a.m. one day a week," said Bill Martello, representative from Jordan, Jones & Goulding, the engineering firm that operates Bear Creek Reservoir.

Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority customers will be able to irrigate their lawns based on the last digit of their address, according to Authority Manager Eric Klerk. Addresses ending in zero and one would be allowed to water on Mondays; two and three on Tuesday; four and five on Wednesday; six and seven on Thursday; and eight and nine on Friday.

Previously, the Level 4 drought response only allowed residents to hand water their lawns with a garden hose for 25 minutes twice a week, based on the odd number/even number address schedule.

The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority hopes to increase revenue with this measure, Klerk said.

"We need to sell water," he said. "We need the revenue. We’ve been suppressed since last June. We’re going on a year of meager water sales — it’s basic economics."

Doug Garrison, chairman of the Barrow County Board of Commissioners, said he thought Barrow County would elect to remain under Level 4 drought response because the county’s watering system was more complicated than that of the other counties and because the city of Winder uses a lot of water.

The Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority agreed to begin the new irrigation schedule Monday and monitor the reservoir and river levels until the next meeting of the authority’s operations committee on July 16.