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Gwinnett sets penalties for water abusers

LAWRENCEVILLE - Wasting water could cost you, since Gwinnett County on Tuesday became the latest Georgia jurisdiction to impose limits on water use during a drought that is draining Lake Lanier.

With little discussion after weeks of debate, the local Board of Commissioners unanimously approved measures aimed at cutting the county's water usage by 10 percent, which was a request from Gov. Sonny Perdue.

"We don't want to impose any major inconvenience on people, but we do want folks to realize that the drought is serious and everyone needs to help save water," said Water Resources Acting Director Lynn Smarr.

Provisions include a fine of up to $1,000 for repeated violations of the county's outdoor water use ban and a surcharge for large volume water customers who do not reduce their usage by 10 percent.

Individual households will be subject to a drought surcharge on usage above 50,000 gallons a month, but the county is offering a rebate of $100 per toilet (with a maximum of $200 per household) for homeowners to replace high-usage toilets with low-flow fixtures.

"We have to implement new conservation measures to make sure we've stretched our water resources as far as we can," said Council for Quality Growth President Michael Paris, who said he was concerned about the impact of conservation on economic development but saw no problems with the county's new law.

After Tuesday's vote, Bruce Arnett Jr. of Carnett's and Brad Thomas of Ultra Car Wash said they were concerned the provisions could punish companies that were already efficient in the use of water in the past. Car washing businesses have taken pains to recycle water, and further reductions would be difficult, they said.

The men also asked commissioners to consider a San Antonio program developed more than a decade ago that resulted in a 40 percent reduction for the city.

"We understand the need to conserve," Arnett said. "We're perceived as the bad guy, but since we are such good stewards of water, we want them to consider that."