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Parched: spring showers not enough to pull Lake Lanier out of drought
Lake Lanier
Effects of the year-long drought can be seen in Forsyth County where docks are stranded on Mars-like lake floor beds exposed from low water levels. - photo by Jim Dean

Don’t let this week’s rainy, stormy, chilly weather fool you. April was hot.

Hotter, in fact, than any other April on record in Atlanta. Heading into summer months, state agencies and Cumming officials are reiterating the need to conserve water in the face of an ongoing drought that has not been quelled by spring storms.

“With Lake Lanier showing only slight improvement after recent rainfall, it’s more important than ever for citizens to be good stewards of our water supply,” Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) Director Richard Dunn said. “The lake remains eight feet below its full water level. Coupled with the fact that it is not unusual during a drought for Lanier to drop six feet or more over the summer, it is critical that metro Atlantans follow a Level 2 Drought Response, which allows reasonable water use while still saving water.”

A Level 2 Drought Response means:

  • Outdoor watering is limited to two days a week before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. – Sundays and Thursdays for odd-numbered addresses and Wednesdays and Saturdays for even-numbered addresses and sites with no numbered addresses
  • No washing of streets, gutters, sidewalks and driveways
  • Ornamental watering, such as fountains and waterfalls, is prohibited
  • There is no non-commercial washing or pressure washing allowed
  • Charity or non-commercial fundraisers or car washes are banned
What is allowed under the restrictions?
  • Irrigation of personal food gardens
  • New and replanted seed, turf or plant irrigation for 30 days following installation
  • Watering with drip irrigation or soaker hoses
  • Hand watering, including hoses with shut-off nozzles
Other ways to conserve water
  • Check and repair leaks inside or outside the home
  • Reducing a shower by two minutes saves five gallons of water
  • Fill dishwashers and washing machines to a full load every time
  • Turning off the water while shaving or brushing teeth can saves at least 100 gallons a week
  • Choose efficient appliances that have EPA WaterSense and ENERGY STAR labels
  • Replace old toilets and shower heads with high-efficiency models
  • Check toilets for leaks by putting food coloring in the tank. Wait 10 minutes. If the color seeps into the toilet, there is a leak
  • If your home was built before 1994, you may qualify for a toilet rebate. Contact Cumming Utilities at (770) 781-2020

The EPD placed Forsyth and 51 other counties under a Level 2 Drought Response in November 2016, enacting water regulations that include allowing outdoor landscape watering up to two days a week, determined by odd and even-numbered addresses.

Even-numbered addresses and properties without numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Odd-numbered addresses may water Thursday and Sunday within the same time limits.

Only 12 counties remain in a Level 2 Drought Response – there are three levels, with Level 1 being the least severe and Level 3 the most. Counties in a Level 2 are Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Lumpkin, Paulding and White counties, all of which depend on Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River for water supply.

“Lake Lanier is a large reservoir fed by relatively small streams,” Dunn said. “Recent rains have provided short-term relief for your landscape, but not enough rainfall for provide significant improvement to Lake Lanier.”

Effects of the year-long drought can be seen in Forsyth County where docks are stranded on Mars-like lake floor beds exposed from low water levels.

As of Friday, May 5, Lanier was at 1,063.20 feet, up from low levels of just above 1,060 in November but still well below the summer full pool of 1,071.

“Since we have experienced unusually low rainfall amounts for many months, including this past fall and winter when we typically have higher levels of precipitation, we are seeing the effects of those low levels now with drought conditions,” said Jon Heard, director of utilities for the city of Cumming.

Heard said Forsyth County may even be declared a Level 3 this summer.

“If everyone follows these [water conservation] guidelines and seeks out other ways to actively conserve water on a regular basis, we will be in a much better position going into the always hot and dry months of summer.”