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Drought restrictions gone after wet winter
Lake Lanier

Drought restrictions in metro Atlanta have been wiped away by the state after a wet winter refilled Lake Lanier.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is lifting its level 1 drought response in 12 North Georgia counties, the division announced on Thursday, March 8. The counties include Hall, Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Habersham, Lumpkin, Paulding and White counties.

The only water use restrictions left in place that apply to the public require landscape watering to be done before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. daily.

Lake Lanier’s water level rose four feet in February after a days and days of heavy rain. The lake has dropped several inches since its March 1 peak of 1,070.8 feet above sea level but remained above 1,070 feet as of late Thursday.

The Army Corps of Engineers controls the water flow from Lake Lanier based on water needs throughout the Chattahoochee River Basin and connected systems in the Southeast.

At the moment, the Army Corps is releasing water from another of its lakes, but not Lanier.

“The corps is conducting navigation water releases from Lake Seminole in southwest Georgia to support river traffic,” EPD Director Richard Dunn said. “Although drought conditions have abated and there is sufficient streamflow into Lanier, EPD will continue to monitor conditions for any impact from the downstream releases.”

Lake Lanier’s current level is in line with the past three years. In each of those years, Lanier stood just above 1,070 feet heading into the spring. 2016 remains an outlier because of the drought that affected the Southeast that year.

A level 1 drought response is the lowest possible from the state, only requiring water utilities to conduct public information campaigns to explain drought conditions and the need to conserve water.

“As expected, winter rains have refilled Lake Lanier, which serves as an important water supply for much of metro Atlanta,” Dunn said in the Thursday announcement.  “Drought-related restrictions were eased in other areas last fall, but the level 1 response was left in place to help the lake recover.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that, while portions of the state are in a slight to moderate drought, North Georgia is lush heading into the spring and under no drought.