By Ed Brock
With a garden full of lantana, mums, thrift and iris, all "drought resistant" flowers, Virginia Bruce of Jonesboro doesn't need much water, anyway.
"I water a little on the mornings I'm supposed to," Bruce said. "I mulch real good and that seems to be the secret."
Water authorities in Clayton and Henry counties are urging their customers to be more like Bruce, even if the rainy weather seems to have returned to Georgia after years of drought.
"We are officially out of the drought and have been for several months now," said Lance Rothfusz, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service offices in Peachtree City.
So it may seem to be a good time to leave the sprinkler on all day and to wash your car every time a bug gets squashed into the radiator grill, but it's not according to Lindy Farmer, general manager of the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority.
"When you look and see storms pounding against the pavement you think that water is in infinite supply," Farmer said in a statement. "This is a common misconception that we are trying to educate the public against. Conservation is not a passing trend. Rather, it is a permanent change in the way our customers use water."
The Clayton County Water Authority has been espousing conservation for years now, CCWA General Manager Wade Brannan said.
"The customers have been cooperating. We can tell by the volume of water we're producing. The message is getting out," Brannan said. "I think people just understand that's going to be the way of life in the Atlanta region."
Rothfusz also endorsed continuing water conservation efforts.
"The atmosphere goes in cycles and if we go back into a dry cycle it's good to have those practices in place," Rothfusz said, adding that they are forecasting a normal winter in terms of rainfall and temperature.
Both water authorities are urging customers to continue the voluntary watering restrictions. People with odd numbered addresses should water on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday while even addresses should water on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and nobody should water on Friday.
The HCWSA is also implementing a conservation plan that is in line with the Georgia Conservancy guidelines. It includes seasonal conservation incentive rates, fast-tracking several capital improvements on aging water lines and distribution system leaks, suspending service for customers with excessive leaks when their property fails to comply with the state's minimum standards plumbing code and taking severe action against water theft.
The authority is also investigating the costs and benefits of leak detection technology.
Brannan said that the CCWA has a similar plan in place.
Also, the statewide ban on outdoor burning has been lifted, Morrow Fire Department Lt. Carl DeMarco said. Regulating outdoor burning is now up to individual departments.