By Jaya Franklin
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division announced a level-four drought across the northern third of the state, which includes Henry and Clayton counties.
Henry County's Water & Sewerage authority -- in recognition of the EPD's initiative -- is urging residents to stop all outdoor watering.
"All counties included in the level-four declaration are located in areas of either exceptional or extreme drought," said Georgia EPD Director Carol Couch.
This level-four status includes the following counties: Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Clayton, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Cobb, Coweta, Gilmer, Gordon, Greene, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Haralson, Harris, Hart, Heard, Henry, Jackson, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Polk, Paulding, Pickens, Rabun, Rockdale, Stephens, Spalding, Dade, Dawson, Douglas, Elbert, Fannin, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Franklin, Fulton, Jasper, Lincoln, Lumpkin, Madison, Meriwether, Morgan, Murray, Muscogee, Newton, Troup, Union, Walker, Walton, White, Whitfield and Wilkes.
EPD director Couch said the drought of 2007 has reached historic proportions. "It's critical that we take immediate action to ensure that Georgians have a sufficient supply of safe drinking water [in the future]," she said, in a press statement.
"Most people don't realize that the months of September and October are historically among the driest months of the year, making water conservation imperative during the fall," said Lindy Farmer, general manager of the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority, also in a prepared statement. "We have said for many years now, regardless of what our supply and production capacity has been, that water conservation is a way of life in Henry County."
The level-four drought designation prohibits any outdoor water use by residential users and many businesses.
Information is available on the GAEPD's web site that lists all exemptions under the outdoor water-use rules. Re-use of gray water in compliance with applicable local ordinances; irrigation of personal food gardens; re-use of cooling system condensate or stormwater in compliance with applicable ordinances, are as some of the exceptions to the restrictions.
In neighboring Clayton County, the water authority -- in response to the seriousness of the drought -- has decided to lead by example by discontinuing use of its fountains.
"This morning, we drained our fountains, in the front and back, at our headquarters," said Suzanne Brown, public information officer for the Clayton Water Authority.
Brown said the county is abiding by the new level-four restriction. "Some of our customers report people watering outside of the restriction guidelines. We have employees who go out and investigate the scene," she said.
On the net:
Georgia Environmental Protection Division: www.gaepd.org