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Ongoing drought's ripples get wider, wider

POSTED: November 21, 2007 5:01 a.m.

ATLANTA -- Georgia's ongoing drought is having a ripple effect on everything from fishing to flush toilets.

At Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County, public fishing access was recently curtailed. The reason: officials said people were driving across the dry lake bed onto neighboring private land.

The Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department, which manages fishing in the four-county public water supply, gated the road to the reservoir's shore last week.

The epic drought has left the reservoir 13 feet below its normal level. That leaves about 30 more yards of cracked mud ringing the waterline than there was a year ago. Some visitors took advantage of the exposed ground to drive around the lake, trespassing into the backyards of lakefront homeowners, said Ricky Sanders, director of the parks and recreation department.

"Some of the nearby property owners have been complaining of people walking up into their yards or driving behind their homes," Sanders said. "If they wanted to, somebody could drive all the way up to the pump station. So we had to close off vehicular access to the reservoir."

Bear Creek provides drinking water to people in Clarke, Barrow, Jackson and Oconee counties.

In Cobb County, meanwhile, officials this week announced a toilet rebate program. It offers an incentive for people in homes built before 1993 to retrofit older hi-flow toilets with new low-flow technology.

Customers will be eligible to receive rebates for up to three toilets per home for purchases made beginning Sept. 20, the date the Drought Response Level Four was effective.

In Carrollton, water customers will soon be penalized for using too much water.

Assistant City Manager Tim Grizzard said in a recent memo "the only effective means of reducing residential and commercial water usage is by implementing a conservation rate to the water billing structure."

The plan begins with November's water usage. Customers will be allowed a certain number of gallons per month based on the size of their metered water line.

Starting with bills mailed in December there will be an extra charge of $2 for each 750 gallons over the allotment. There will be no penalties for industrial users, which represent about 40 percent of the city's water usage, Grizzard said.

At Lake Lanier Islands Resort, a spa called Tranquility has begun offering waterless manicures and pedicures.

Instead of soaking customers' hands and feet in a water pretreatment, the spa will replace the step with new, waterless products that do the job of water, but without the water.

And in Gwinnett County, the sheriff's department recently announced plans to save more than 222,000 gallons of water per month by cutting back on waste.

That includes a crackdown on everything from inmate toilet flushes to dishwashing methods, catching rain water off the roof and air conditioning units in a new poly tank system and sanitizing lunch trays by hand instead of running a large dishwasher.

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