How can we have a drought when we have so much rainfall?

water conservation tipsThe following information has been summarized from the article “Saving Water in Georgia.”, June 2013.

It seems that water shortages have become a fact of life for Georgians. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just the lack of rainfall that triggers our droughts. The population explosion in the Atlanta area has caused a demand for water but with no corresponding increase in our supply sources. Moreover, our aquifers (sources from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well) are scarce and unpredictable.

Georgia grew by more than 18% from 2000 to 2010 and was the seventh fastest growing state in the nation. Predictions are that Georgia will have 14.4 million residents by 2030. Atlanta area is home to about half of the state’s residents but has a very small surface water supply relative to its size. The demand for water is ever increasing.

Lake Lanier is Georgia’s principal reservoir. It is a man-made lake that was originally constructed for power production, flood control and downstream navigation. A hot day can evaporate about 200 million gallons of water. When rainfall is below average, Lake Lanier is in serious danger of drying out. The heavy reliance on Lake Lanier and our hot summers require Georgians to be vigilant about water conservation.

Many counties are participating in water efficiency programs and this has proven to be successful.

  • Cobb County Water system started a water efficiency program in 2005 and saw its per capita water use drop from 126 gallons per person per day to 113 gallons per person per day in 2010.
  • Atlanta’s Brown Village experienced a water consumption drop by more than 6.1 million gallons per year after distributing water –efficient toilets, showerheads and conservation tips to 340 residents.
  • Chatham County residents saved more than one million gallons of water in one year after replacing 600 water-wasting toilets with more efficient models.

On the national level, Georgia has taken steps towards conservation.

  • The Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010 requires builders to install water efficient fixtures in all new homes and commercial construction statewide.
  • Multi Unit buildings are required to have individual water metering so that owners of each unit will know how much water they use.

Water Conservation Tips

Up to 75% of a home’s total water use during the Spring and Summer is for lawn sprinklers. Individual homeowners have financial incentives to conserve since water is no longer a cheap resource.

  • Detect and repair all leaks in irrigation system.
  • Water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day (early morning is best). Do not water on windy days.
  • Water trees and shrubs, which have deep root systems, longer and less frequently than shallow-rooted plants that require smaller amounts of water more often. Check with the local extension service for advice on watering needs in your area.
  • Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden only—not the street or sidewalk.
  • Install rain sensors on sprinkler systems.
  • Use mulch around shrubs and garden plants to reduce evaporation from the soil surface and cut down on weed growth.
  • Remove thatch and aerate turf to encourage movement of water to the root zone.
  • Raise your lawn mower cutting height—longer grass blades help shade each other, reduce evaporation, and inhibit weed growth.