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County schools curtail water usage
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The Newton County School System is trying to do its part to conserve water.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue mandated earlier this month that counties and cities reduce their water usage by 10 percent from this time last year.

Usage will be assessed at the beginning of December and noncompliant municipalities will be fined.

"Water conservation is an issue on everyone's mind," said Deborah Robertson, NCSS associate superintendent for business and administration.

Robertson said schools have always reported water-related problems such as leaks and running toilets, and repairs have then been made expeditiously.

Measures the district is employing to reduce its water usage include adjusting all main line pressure regulators to the lowest operational setting to control pressure and flow within the buildings, turning off all athletic sprinklers and setting toilets to the lowest operating pressure and volume per flush.

Waterless urinals are in all schools as well.

"A lot of businesses have been trying to switch over to those too," Robertson said, "because it does save a lot of water over a year."

The maintenance department is thoroughly monitoring cooling towers for overflow and closed heat pump loops for leaks.

 Perhaps the most drastic measure is that school cafeterias have discontinued the use of dishwashers in the 11 schools using them.

 "This will save approximately 250 gallons of water per hour at each school," Robertson said.

Because most schools operate the machines approximately 2.5 to 3.5 hours a day, Robertson estimates the measure will save the district between 6,785 and 9,625 gallons every day.

NCSS Food and Nutrition Director Jan Loomans said foam trays and plastic flatware will be used instead of tableware and utensils which need washing.

"It will not affect the lunch process at all," Loomans said.

Loomans said the department had to weigh the environmental effects of using more non-biodegradable materials against the conservation issue, and conservation was deemed more pressing.

In an article published Sunday, Executive Director of the Newton County Water and Sewage Authority Mike Hopkins told the News four of the largest users of water in the county are Newton County public schools.

Newton High School and Porterdale Elementary School share one master meter between them, as do Clements Middle School and Fairview Elementary School and Veterans Middle School and West Newton Elementary School.

Alcovy High School rounded out the list.

Hopkins said the schools are not misusing water; they simply have large student populations.