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Posted: June 4, 2009 11:30 p.m.

With drought over, water restrictions eased

Lawns, vehicles OKed for watering, washing

Newton County residents will be able to wash their cars and water their lawns Wednesday as the state lowered Newton County’s watering restrictions to Level IV c.

At Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting, Administrative Officer John Middleton announced that residents will be able to water lawns and wash vehicles three days a week on the same odd-even address schedule currently used. Under that schedule, watering is allowed between midnight and 10:00 a.m.: odd addresses water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and even and unnumbered addresses water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

According to a press release from Karl Kelley, director of the Newton County Water Resources Department, certain activities are still prohibited including the washing of hard surfaces, such as streets, gutters, sidewalks and driveways, except when necessary for public health or safety. Using fire hydrants is also prohibited except for firefighting, public health, safety or flushing.

Previously allowed uses including filling up swimming pools, hand watering of existing landscaping for 25 minutes per day and watering of newly installed landscaping for up to 10 weeks under certain circumstances, are still allowed and have not changed.

The BOC applied for the lowered restrictions at the end of April and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division approved the application May 4, which is effective immediately Wednesday. Several surrounding counties have previously applied for the lowered restrictions, but the BOC was being more conservative to ensure that drought conditions would not return as soon as restrictions were lowered.

A side effect of the relaxed restrictions is that county water providers will likely see more revenue due to increased sales.
District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said he was very pleased to see the restrictions relaxed because many of his constituents take pride in the cleanliness of their cars and the health of their lawns.

“Most people take pride in their vehicles; there’s something of a personal relationship between a person and his vehicle,” Ewing said.

District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz supported the lowered restrictions, but said county residents should continue to conserve water even though the restriction level has been lowered.

The drought in Newton County was declared over in early April and rainfall has been above average so far this year. However, in an April interview Assistant State Climatologist Pam Knox said that water use restrictions will probably be a permanent way of life in Georgia because of the prolonged length of the drought.

"Drought caused a permanent change in how people use water. In Athens we cut use by 25 percent," she said previously. "People learn to use a lot less water than they used to; they learn they don’t need as much."

If residents have any questions regarding the new restrictions they should call the customer service number on their water bill, county officials said.

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