Drought ebbs; area still restricted

LAWRENCEVILLE - The U.S. Drought Monitor showed this week that the drought that has gripped the state for most of the past three years is almost gone. Only a small patch in northeast Georgia is still considered 'abnormally dry," the lowest of five drought intensity designations.

But just because the drought is subsiding doesn't mean the Level IV water restrictions in place for most of North Georgia are subsiding with it. At least not yet.

"The data needs to show four consecutive months of improvement before we begin considering easing restrictions," said Kevin Chambers, the director of communications for the state's Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources. "We're in the third month right now of those improving conditions."

Depending on whether water providers withdraw directly from Lake Lanier or the Chattahoochee River, some restrictions have already been eased, Chambers said, because certain providers have petitioned and been granted the right to impose more relaxed restrictions.

For example, Gwinnett County and Hall County use Lake Lanier and therefore still have Level IV restrictions in place, meaning outdoor water use is prohibited aside from a few permitted uses.

One use includes the ability to water using drip irrigation or soaker hoses one hour per day, three days a week, between midnight and

10 a.m. using the even/odd address system. That means if an address ends in an even number, watering is permitted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. If the address ends in an odd number, watering is permitted Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. No watering is allowed on Fridays.

The other exemption allows Gwinnett and Hall residents to water using a hand-held garden hose for up to 25 minutes a day, three days a week, between midnight and 10 a.m. using the same even/odd address system.

Unfortunately for Gwinnett and Hall residents, under Level IV restrictions washing a car or using a sprinkler at home is prohibited. Special privileges are available if new landscaping has been installed, though. Filling swimming pools is also allowed without restrictions.

Chambers said Barrow and Jackson counties have been granted special privileges and a little additional relief because they don't draw from Lanier or the Chattahoochee. Their water recipients are now on the Level IV-A status, he said.

That means people in Jackson with odd-numbered addresses may use sprinklers between midnight and

10 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. People with even-numbered addresses can use sprinklers between the same hours Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Unlike Gwinnett and Hall, washing a car at home or pressure-washing a house is permitted on any day of the week if you reside in Jackson County.

Barrow County has similar privileges as Jackson but with a few more restrictions. Barrow County customers can wash their cars and pressure-wash their homes only during the days and times when they are allowed to use sprinklers.

If your address is odd-numbered, that means watering using a sprinkler from midnight to 10 a.m. Thursdays and Sundays is allowed. Hand watering for 25 minutes on Tuesdays is also permitted.

If you're even-numbered, it's from the same time on Wednesdays and Saturdays for sprinkler use with 25 minutes of hand watering allowed on Mondays.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.