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Newton County taking stock of water usage
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While it's still too early to tell if the water conservation awareness efforts of county water utilities have had an effect, authorities are optimistic that they will be able to decrease water consumption county-wide by 10 percent as mandated by Governor Sonny Perdue.

"All of us are shooting for the 10 percent," said Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Newton County Water and Sewage Authority. "I don't think realistically all of us will meet it. We'll just have to see what this educational blitz and this mandate by the state will do."

 All of the water utilities which draw water from City Pond and Lake Varner - the cities of Covington, Oxford, Porterdale, Newborn and Mansfield as well as the water and sewage authorities of Newton, Jasper and Walton Counties - met together last week to brainstorm ways to curtail water consumption.

In order to meet Perdue's mandate, Newton County must reduce its average water production by 970,000 gallons per day according to figures provided by the Newton County Water and Sewage Authority.

As Newton County is predominantly still residential, the bulk of the water conservation will have to be done by residents. As such the water utilities are focusing their efforts on educational awareness with private users.

According to Hopkins, of the authority's 22,000 water users, only approximately 200 of them are industrial/commercial accounts.

With water use spread out among such a large base of customers rather than with a few major industrial users, the job of policing water use is very complicated for the county.

"It's kind of hard to police residential people," Hopkins said. "Hopefully they will help participate on their own indoors."

Since the meeting, all water utilities have been busy compiling lists of their biggest water users.

According to Hopkins, four of the largest users of the Water and Sewage Authority are members of the Newton County School System who share one master meter between two schools.

Sharing a master meter together, Newton High School and Porterdale Elementary made the list along with Clements Middle School and Fairview Elementary School who also share a master meter.

Veterans Middle School and West Newton Elementary School who share a meter on Brown Bridge Road made the list as did Alcovy High School.

"They're not being excessive water hogs, it's just they have 'x' number of hundreds of kids," said Hopkins of the schools' water use.

Other top water users of the Water and Sewage Authority include Arbor Lake Apartments and Summerset Apartments.

As with the schools, the two apartment complexes each have a single master meter which keeps track of the water usage of hundreds of apartments said Hopkins.

The city of Covington is the only water utility whose largest water customers are all industrial users. Covington City Manager Steve Horton said the city has compiled a list of its largest users and is currently meeting with them to discuss ways they can lower their water consumption.