LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnettians can get relief from the heat this summer in local pools, but their lawns will have to remain thirsty for now, according to an announcement made Thursday by the county government.
Local leaders decided to follow Gov. Sonny Perdue's call to allow swimming pools to be filled, but the county has chosen not to allow hand-watering of lawns or gardens. A restrictive ordinance put in place late last year will continue until the end of June, with officials expected to consider its extension at the end of March.
"We are taking a wait-and-see approach to Lake Lanier's levels and the county's progress on meeting the state's mandate to reduce water usage by 10 percent," said Jim Scarbrough of the Department of Water Resources in a press release. On the phone he added, "We've got to be careful."
He said the rules could be relaxed if Gwinnett gets adequate rainfall and if levels improve at Lake Lanier, both the county's and metro Atlanta's largest water supply. The lake hit a historic low last year during a devastating drought. It remained nearly 20 feet below its full level Thursday.
"It will not be good. I don't know how I will manage the garden," Lilburn man Deba Talapatra said of a continuation of the ban.
Last summer, he managed to keep his peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, beans and other vegetables alive by collecting water from his gutters, and he is trying to figure out how to collect water from the shower - known as gray water - for his garden this year.
"My expectation was they would put some limit," he said, adding that he would rather have a limit on the total usage from his house, so he could take short showers and leave the remaining water for his garden. "Hopefully, we'll survive."
Officials said the use of swimming pools does little to dip into the county's water use total, but lawn watering can increase consumption by as much as 25 percent.
The county has also placed some slightly changed restrictions on professional landscapers, who are allowed to water on 10 of the first 30 days following installation of plants. The days of watering are restricted based on the house number. Details can be found at www.gwinnettcounty.com.
"I will provide an interim report to the Board of Commissioners around mid-March that will detail the fiscal impacts of the drought on the water department and how we are conforming to the state's water use reduction mandate," County Administrator Jock Connell said. "This will provide the board valuable data for use in evaluating the use of hand watering outdoor plants and whether to revisit the policy. ...
"Our focus is to continue to seek the proper balance of resource protection, the protection of public health and welfare, reasonable accommodation of landscapes and improved quality of life."