Time for water conservation is now

By Todd DeFeo

Without additional conservation measures, Metro Atlanta could exceed its water supply by 2030, projections offered by the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District indicate.

"If you just pick one thing out of all this District's work that is going to be a fundamental shift in the way we deal with water management, it's probably going to be getting aggressive about water conservation," said Richard Brownlow, the principal planner for the Environmental Planning Division of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), who recently spoke before the Henry County Chamber of Commerce.

Metro Atlanta has grown by about 80,000 people annually since 2000, the ARC estimates, and eight of the District's 16 counties, including Henry, are included in the U.S. Census Bureau's top 100 fastest growing counties. The metro area is expected to double its population to 8 million people by 2030.

Currently, the metro area uses 652 million gallons of water per day, the District estimates. That number could increase to 1.2 billion gallons of water per day by 2030.

Because of that rapid growth, the District has created a "conservation plan," aimed at reducing the water demand throughout the metropolitan region. Included in the list: conservation pricing for districts, reducing leaks throughout the water system and retrofitting appliances and toilets in homes.

Such measures could conserve not just water, but money too.

"You're going to save a lot of money over the long haul," Brownlow said of retrofitting those appliances.

It would cost between $700 and $1,000 for a plumber to retrofit a three bedroom-two bathroom house. And if all households in metro Atlanta were retrofitted, about 35 million gallons of water could be conserved every day, the same amount currently consumed in Clayton County each day.

About 55 percent of the water consumed in Metro Atlanta is used residentially, Brownlow said. An additional 30 percent is used commercially.

"Planning is not something you do once and put on a shelf," Brownlow concludes.