County to study reservoirs

LAWRENCEVILLE - County officials kicked off a study Monday on whether to create a new water reservoir to reduce the county's dependence on Lake Lanier.

Chairman Charles Bannister, who is seeking re-election, said in a campaign press release he directed County Administrator Jock Connell to look into the idea, since the legislature recently passed a new law to speed up the state process for building reservoirs. Gov. Sonny Perdue is expected to sign the legislation today at Lake Lanier.

But commissioners, including Bannister's competition in the July primary, Lorraine Green, talked about the idea during a retreat last November. The idea was also listed on Green's campaign Web site.

Connell sent an e-mail to commissioners and staff Monday saying he is forming a working group to look into possibilities. The county purchased more than 200 acres in the Buford area for a possible reservoir, but Connell said the site will be studied along with financial options.

"This drought won't last forever, but there will be another drought," Connell said. "We need to see how far ahead of this issue we can get."

With the county in an extreme drought and Lake Lanier about 13 feet below its full level, Gwinnett, like the state, has imposed a statewide outdoor watering ban. Exceptions to allow hand-watering and the filling of pools were recently approved, but in a press release, Bannister said the county needs its own water source, since Lanier's waters are shared with much of Georgia as well as Alabama and Florida.

"After asking the citizens of Gwinnett to take measures to conserve water like buying new toilets, sacrificing their landscaping and jobs, it is time for Gwinnett County government to step up future planning," he said. "Trillions of gallons of water fall on Gwinnett every year, we just don't capture it. It's time that Gwinnett steps up planning to capture that water."

Green agreed, saying she had been working on the idea for a long time.

"I believe water independence is vital to Gwinnett's economy and that's why I've been working on it since last year," she said. "I think everyone in Gwinnett recognizes we have a problem which needs to be dealt with and not just talked about."

Glenn Pirkle, an electrical contractor from Buford who is also challenging Bannister in the Republican primary, said he had not studied the reservoir issue.

"In the future, we're going to need a different supply of water, but right now, I don't know," Pirkle said.