DULUTH - Saying that concerns about water belong at the top of everyone's priority list, Gov. Sonny Perdue urged more than 1,200 people to conserve more of it in his annual environmental address Wednesday.
"Supplies are seemingly becoming more limited," he said. "Everyone needs to be aware we as individuals need to make some serious changes. We don't have any choice."
Perdue told people gathered at the address to stop letting water run in the shower as they answer a morning phone call or from the faucet as they brush their teeth.
"These are personal habits we can no longer afford," he said.
Much of the state is under exceptional or extreme drought conditions and Lake Lanier, the region's main water source, was down nearly 12 feet from its full pool level of 1,071 feet at its last reading, taken Monday. The water level gauge is currently down for maintenance.
For years, Perdue said, Georgians treated water as an infinite resource. Only now are residents realizing that there is a limit to the supply.
He said the state is working on a comprehensive plan to ensure a clean and stable water supply, with public hearings to be held in the middle of October.
"The time for passing that is now," Perdue said. "We need a thoughtful, unified plan that truly meets our long-term needs."
The governor said from 1985 to 2000, the number of people served by the public water system increased 44 percent, while the actual use increased 50 percent. Georgians use more water per person than many other states, he said.
"We're using more, and we're using more than our share," Perdue said. "We need to arm our citizens with the knowledge to make a difference."
Perdue also spoke about the state's burgeoning ethanol production, the need to recycle more, land conservation and his anti-litter campaign.
The eighth annual address was held at the Gwinnett Center and hosted by Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful. The group's director, Connie Wiggins, said Gwinnett will spend the next year working to rid the county of litter in accordance with the anti-litter program.
Good environmental practices benefit the economy, Perdue said, and the removal of litter will make the area even more appealing to residents and businesses. He said Gwinnett is already on the right track.
"Others come to watch what you're doing here, to emulate that," Perdue said. "It's the sincerest form of flattery."