Population growth stirs worries about stress on region’s water supply | ajc.com

 

By Leon Stafford

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When Colin Cavill began planning the 325-unit Enso Atlanta apartments near Grant Park three years ago, water was at the top of his mind.

Colin Cavill focused on water conservation when he developed the Enso Atlanta apartments in Grant Park, which, among other things, has a saltwater pool and a cistern for  rainwater harvesting that holds over 76,000 gallons.

Phil Skinner, AJC Colin Cavill focused on water conservation when he developed the Enso Atlanta apartments in Grant Park, which, among other things, has a saltwater pool and a cistern for rainwater harvesting that holds over 76,000 gallons.

 

Simply put: The metro’s area’s supply is limited, and he didn’t want to make matters worse.

So Cavill — who says his company, Capital 33, wanted to “help reduce our footprint” — developed the complex as a green project. Toilets and faucets are low-flow, shower heads are water-efficient, and a cistern collects water for the landscaping.

Cavill’s efforts may need to be become the norm as the state struggles with its limited water supply, experts say.

Metro Atlanta grew by 1 million people over the past decade, according to the U.S. census, and water — or lack thereof — could decide its continued strength as a region, the experts said.

“Growth goes where the water is and not vice versa,” said Gil Rogers, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Larry Neal, a senior principal for Mactec Engineering and Consulting, which has worked with the state on drinking water assessments, said a solution is critical for job growth. If water supply is stretched thin, it could be more expensive for business to tap. That could dissuade prospects from considering locating in metro Atlanta.

“If there is uncertainty,” he said, “it can cause a business to steer away. … You don’t want water to become the limiting factor in any given area.”

The state recognizes the risks. It has authorized the construction of reservoirs, created a Water Supply Task Force and adopted some conservation measures. Many cities and counties in the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, which includes metro Atlanta, are offering rebates to homeowners who replace older toilets with low-flow models.

One of the biggest challenges remains the state’s dispute with Alabama and Florida over access to Lake Lanier. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled in 2009 that it was illegal for the Army Corps of Engineers to draw water from the lake to meet the needs of 3 million metro residents. Magnuson set a July 2012 deadline for the states to resolve the dispute. Otherwise, metro Atlanta would be limited to the same amount of water it received in the mid-1970s, when the population was less than one-third its current size. Georgia is appealing the ruling.

“Some of our issues are the litigation and uncertainty about the future,” said Pat Stevens, chief of environmental planning at the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Stevens said that despite the population growth, water use in metro Atlanta is down. She said the population in the North Georgia water district grew 28 percent between 2000 and 2009. Usage, however, was down to 512 million gallons of water a day in 2009, compared with a high in 2006 of 602 million gallons.

A number of factors led to the reduction, including conservation, severe water restrictions during several years of drought and the economic downturn, which may have forced residents to curtail tapping water they could not afford.

Also, 2009 was a rainy year, lessening the need to water yards and gardens.

“It really rained a lot that year. Actually the last year that was more close to our norm was in 2006,” Stevens said. The metro area’s rainfall was 69.4 inches in 2009 and 48.5 inches in 2006.

Alan Wexler, president of Databank Atlanta, a r, said if water were to become less abundant, it could lead to restrictions that would put commercial and residential real estate projects on hold. That happened in the years of drought in 2007 and 2008.

Solving the issue is critical because the economy has stymied real estate growth the past few years. When the recovery comes, no one wants to be sidelined because of water, he said.

“You have so many factors that are fluid right now,” he said.

Population growth stirs worries about stress on region’s water supply  | ajc.com.

Advertisements

DeKalb residents could see water bills double

Source
AJC.com
By Megan Matteucci

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A DeKalb County family’s water and sewer bill could increase 110 percent from 2009 to 2014 — and even more if the state declares a drought.

The upgrades are needed to help pay for $1.79 billion in capital improvements to DeKalb’s water system, Watershed Management director Francis Kung’u said.

“Our water and sewer infrastructure is aging,” Kung’u told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “If we don’t do this, it will continue to degrade. We will get more breaks and won’t have enough capacity of wastewater treatment. We won’t be able to support growth of the county.”

The county is proposing to raise water and sewer rates 16 percent each year through fiscal year 2014.

The County Commission already approved a 16 percent rate increase for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, but is now looking at the additional increases to cover the plant repairs.

For a family that uses 4,000-20,000 gallons a month, it means an increase of 110 percent in their bill. The maximum bimonthly bill that was $165 in 2009 would be $347 in 2014.

But some county commissioners fear that may be too much for some residents in DeKalb, where 10.4 percent are unemployed and 68 percent of students in the school system qualify for free or reduced meals.

“When you look at the proposed rate increases, it’s got me thinking about reality,” Commissioner Lee May said. “Regardless if you call it a tax or a fee, the realization is that it comes out of everyone’s pocket.”

A vote will likely not be taken until next month at the earliest, Commissioner Larry Johnson said.

The commission is waiting for more information on the water department’s staffing and budget before agreeing to approve the rates. Ninety of the department’s employees are leaving at the end of the month through an early retirement program, but the department wants to fill 70 of those positions.

Those workers are needed for daily water main breaks and other repair work, said Ted Rhinehart, deputy chief operating officer of infrastructure.

“Those are the workers who do the day-to-day functions,” he said. “It’s so we don’t make a bad situation worse. We know we have a lot of pipes to repair.”

That repair list could get much worse if the county doesn’t upgrade the water system, Kung’u said.

The $1.79 billion covers 83 different projects, including expanding the county’s two wastewater plants and adding more clean storage wells at the county’s one drinking water plant. DeKalb also must fund 48 percent of all upgrades to Atlanta’s R.M. Clayton Wastewater Treatment Plant, which the county shares with the city, Kung’u said.

DeKalb plans to issue $350 million in bonds this year, $733 million in fiscal year 2012 and $277 million in fiscal year 2014.

In addition to the water system upgrades, the increased rates are also needed to help offset a drop in revenue from mandatory water restrictions, Kung’u said.

In 2009, the drought restrictions caused DeKalb water use to drop about 7.5 percent, which resulted in a $28.3 million loss. The county expects to lose about $34.3 million this year because of the water restrictions.

To help prevent that problem in future years, the water department is proposing to raise rates even more if the state declares a drought. Kung’u is asking commissioners to add on a 5 percent increase if the governor declares a Level 2 drought, a 10 percent increase for a Level 3 drought and a 15 percent increase for a Level 4 drought.

“Over the next several years, everybody else will be adjusting rates,” Kung’u said. “But for now, we are still below average in the metro region.”

That region average includes the city of Atlanta, which has water rates that are about double the surrounding counties because of its sewer project, Kung’u said.

Atlanta has approved a 56 percent increase from 2008-2012. The rates are supposed to go up about 12 percent each year until June 2012. The city is also considering adding a stormwater fee, which could be as high as $120 a year for some homes.

Fulton approved a 15 percent water hike in May 2008 and has no plans to raise rates, according to Public Works Director Angela Parker.

Cobb is expected to reapprove water and sewer increases in November. Starting in January, water rates will go up 8 percent, and sewer rates will increase 4 percent.

Gwinnett County passed a resolution last year establishing water and sewer rate increases each January through 2015. Customers began paying $4.11 per 1,000 gallons of water this year, up 25 cents from 2009. The rate goes up to $4.38 in 2011. The same is true for sewer service. Gwinnett customers now pay $5.38 per 1,000 gallons, up 47 cents from last year. The rate rises to $5.89 at the first of next year.

Clayton County has no plans to raise water rates. In August 2009, it raised water rates by 6 percent for residents who use more than 3,000 gallons a month, said Clayton County Water Authority spokeswoman Suzanne Brown.

Cherokee County does not anticipate a rate increase, but the Woodstock City Council is considering raising rates as much as 13 percent.

Staff writers Jeffry Scott, Christopher Quinn, Janel Davis and Patrick Fox contributed to this article.

Water usage

DeKalb customers who use 0-4,000 gallons a month

Number of customers: 51,749

Percent of total customers: 32 percent

2010 bimonthly bill: $46

2012 bimonthly bill: $62

2014 bimonthly bill: $83

DeKalb customers who use 4,001-20,000 gallons a month

Number of customers: 100,723

Percent of total customers: 62 percent

2010 bimonthly bill: $192

2012 bimonthly bill: $258

2014 bimonthly bill: $347

*Bill amount is the maximum

Current average monthly water and sewer bill for a customer who uses 6,000 gallons a month

DeKalb: $51

Clayton: $53

Cobb: $54

Fulton: $56

Gwinnett: $60

Cherokee: $61

City of Atlanta: $121

Source: DeKalb County Watershed Management Department

The Story of Bottled Water

The Story of Bottled Water by Madeline Ostrander, senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Worried about what’s in your tap?

That’s exactly what the water bottling industry hoped when it developed brands like Dasani, Perrier, and Poland Springs, which promise to be “natural,” “pure,” “clean,” even “sexy” alternatives to tap water.

But the very companies that market those brands, like Nestlé and Coca Cola, are putting public water supplies in jeopardy in communities both in the United States and overseas. They’re selling us a product that is often not any cleaner than tap water, and is a lot pricier.

Bottled water is a scam. The simplest way to understand why is to watch a new, short film released today by the creators of The Story of Stuff. Like its predecessor, The Story of Bottled Water uses simple language and surprisingly charming stick figures to walk you through the perils of the bottled water economy. “Bottled water costs about 2,000 times more than tap water,” says Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and director. “Can you imagine paying 2,000 times the price of anything else? How about a $10,000 sandwich?”

The Story of Bottled Water film still

Bottled water often comes straight from the tap, sometimes with a little filtering, sometimes not. It is not necessarily safer. For instance, in 2004, the Coca-Cola company had to recall all of its Dasani water from the United Kingdom, after officials discovered the water exceeded the legal limit for bromate, a carcinogen. The Environmental Working Group recently tested 10 brands of bottled water—on average, they contained eight chemical pollutants, no better than tap water.

But there’s something even more insidious about the way that the bottled water industry preys on our public water systems and tap water. Water is both the most basic of human needs and a product of nature. It can’t actually be manufactured, so bottling it up and selling it always means removing water from a public source. As the bottled water market has taken off, we’ve seen public water fountains begin to disappear. Meanwhile, citizens in rural towns have begun to take notice that water-bottling companies are trying to sell off water that actually belongs to them. Communities like Barnstead, New Hampshire have fought hard to keep Nestle from bottling and shipping away their local water.

China’s Living Water Garden
Photo essay: Chengdu’s most popular public park is is a 5.9 acre inner-city natural water treatment system.

We’ve gotten used to thinking we have more than enough water to go around in this country, but it’s not true. According to experts like Peter Gleick, the United States is facing a water crisis that will only get worse in coming years. Already major water supplies like the Ogallala Aquifer and Lake Mead, which together supply water for millions across the Southwest and Great Plains, are in big danger of running dry. Climate change is going to alter everything we know about water—how much stays in our reservoirs, how much snow falls in the Sierras, how our rivers flow, and how much we have available to drink, irrigate our crops, and water our lawns. When we let a private company control, bottle, or sell our water—whether it’s Coca-Cola or the private water operator Thames—we’re giving up some measure of control over our health, environment, lives, and futures.

In May, YES! Magazine will unveil a full issue about how to protect our water and keep it clean and accessible. You’ll read about radical breakthroughs in contentious Western water wars, about a community that bought its water back from private control, about farms that are learning how save water by taking care of soil, and about ways to get all the water you need, even if you live in the heart of the desert.

In the meantime, you can celebrate World Water Day by watching The Story of Bottled Water, and read more about campaigns to protect water in our online and magazine coverage.


Madeline Ostrander

Madeline Ostrander is senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Interested?
Life, Liberty, Water by Maude Barlow
A global water justice movement is demanding a change in international law to ensure the universal right to clean water for all.

Speaking of Green by SouthEast Green with ecoTransitions

Am I GREEN? – What is “being green”?

I grew up in Germany, where “being green” wasn’t really an option. I remember helping my mom as a 6 year old, bundling up newspapers, carrying them to the cellar and storing them, until twice a year a truck came by and picked them all up. Back then there wasn’t really much paper trash, except the daily newspaper. Then we started collecting glass and driving it to recycling containers once a month or so.  Then came the “Green dot” or “Yellow sac”. We had to seperate plastic from envelopes, aluminum johgurt container lids from the plastic containers and we had to pull paper labels of tuna cans. Everything needed to be washed out, as we had to collect everything for 2 weeks until it was picked up. Because we lived in a small appartment, we had to make sure to clean every single item (including cans of cat food) to prevent nasty smells and infestation with flies, especially during summer (without Air conditioner). The yellow bags had to be kept inside until the day they were picked up on the curve. Each households then had a trash can and a stack of yellow bags. Then every household received a compost ‘trash’ can. The compost was picked up once or twice a month only – imagine the smell. BECAUSE trash service was expensive, everybody tried to have as little trash as possible. Compost pickup was free – so of course you make sure to compost as much as possible (and the county gets a good compost pile built up for their needs). When you go shopping to pay attention to the packaging the various products are packed in and start buying more and more products that use less packaging. When you buy bread at the bakery, they wrap it in a sheet of thin paper, not in 2 layers of plastic that makes it soggy anyway. (Do you know how much oil and water is needed to produce plastic bags? Oil we wouldn’t need to import if we’d all use reusable grocery bags – that are sturdier and better looking to begin with – you can even express opinions or your personality with these accessories). When you go shopping, you bring your ‘1 euro’ or plastic chip (the size of a quarter) and use it to ‘unlock’ your shopping cart; when you’re done, you bring back the shopping cart to the ‘station’ and get your chip (or euro) back (if you have been to Aldi, you saw the concept). It is a great way to prevent shopping carts from being abandoned in the parking lot and therefore eliminates the need for an employee that has to collect them and high insurance costs to cover damaged cars. When you buy beer, soda juice or sparkling water, you purchase it in cases (where you can mix varieties if you wish) and pay a deposit for each bottle and carrying case. You can then return it (at ANY) grocery or beverage store and get your deposit back. The bottles get washed and reused several times. If you have weeds in your garden, you pull them up by hand – it is good for the body and soul and doesn’t require the use of expensive chemicals that ruin our groundwater and end up in our drinking water, making us sick. I could go on and on – but I think you get the picture. If you live in Germany and don’t recycle, you pay a fine if they catch you. If you drive a vehicle that is not fuel efficient – you pay a lot more in taxes than others. If you don’t recycle – you’re frowned upon. So – it is a smart thing to do and you do your part as a responsible citizen.  I believe that is what qualifies for ‘being green” and I am very happy to see that more and more Americans realize, that we need to protect our resources, save money and live more responsibly by not leaving a huge footprint during our short time on this beautiful earth.

Top 10 Myths about Sustainability: Scientific American

How do you explain Sustainability? I’s not all about the Environment, it is much more! I believe the best way to describe it is “don’t take more than your share”. “We have an economy where we steal the future, sell it in the present, and call it GDP [gross domestic product].”

Top 10 Myths about Sustainability: Scientific American

Posted using ShareThis

Save Water, Save A Buck

About Save Water, Save A Buck

Save Water, Save a Buck is a rebate program in Southern California that offers cash rebates on a wide variety of water-saving technologies. Devices available for rebates include High-Efficiency and Ultra Low Flush Toilets, High-Efficiency and Zero Water Urinals, food services equipment such as Pre-Rinse Spray Heads and Connectionless Food Steamers, HVAC equipment such as Cooling Tower and pH Conductivity Controllers, cleaning equipment such as High-Efficiency Clothes Washers and Pressurized Waterbrooms and medical equipment like X-Ray Film Processor Recirculation Systems, Steam Sterilizer Retrofits and Dry-Vacuum Pumps.

Through MWD’s Save Water, Save A Buck Program, Southern California businesses are eligible for generous rebates to help encourage water efficiency and conservation.

The program also offers rebates on outdoor landscaping equipment such as weather based “smart” irrigation controllers, rotating spray nozzle retrofits for pop-up spray heads, high efficiency nozzle retrofits for large rotary sprinklers and synthetic turf.

As the drought is worsening and the water levels at Lake Lanier declining, it may be time for a program like Save Water, Save a Buck ibaby treefrog born in our back yardn Georgia. Not only will we save millions of gallons of drinking water and money each day, we will also help our economy. Plumbers will have work, Manufacturers will start hiring again and we will feel good about doing something ” kind” to our world in these tough times. Please read the Mission Statement as well as a lot more interesting information about Water efficiency and Water Recycling here.

As a Small Business, but nevertheless largest Supplier for Caroma Dual Flush toilets in Georgia, I am a proud to notice that the list of eligible High Efficiency Toilets (HET’s)  includes the follwing models

  1. 46 manufactured by Caroma Industries
  2. 20 made by Toto
  3. 19 made by Crane
  4. 17 made by American Standard
  5. 12 mady by Kohler
  6. 11 made by Mansfield
  7. 9 made by Zurn

and several made by various manufactures such as Aquasource, Briggs, Cascadian, Foremost, Gerber, Glacier Bay, Greentide, Jacuzzi, Niagara, OPS, Pegasus (a Home Depot brand), Proflow (a Ferguson brand), Quality Craft, Seasons (a HD Supply brand), Sterling (a Kohler company), Tangshan Ayers Bath, Tynan, Vitra, Vortens and Wateridge.

h2zero_3

Furthering an ongoing commitment to products that conserve water, Caroma has recently introduced the H2Zero™ Waterless Urinal in the US. The vitreous china urinal incorporates unique cartridge technology that operates with zero water for optimum performance and water conservation. Another model, the Leda urinal uses only 0.48 gallons per flush while the Cube 3 Ultra uses a remarkable 0.15 gallons per flush, or a mere pint of water. Thanks to its innovative design and technology, the Cube 3 Ultra was named one of the Top 10 green building products of 2007 by GreenSpec.

All eligible toilets are included on the list of WaterSense labeled High Efficiency toilets, which is updated regularly on EPA’s WaterSense program site. Since I became a WaterSense partner in Georgia beginning of 2008, the list of Watersense labeled toilets grew from 115 models on 11/29/07 to 249 models on 12/15/08.

Find out more about Caroma toilets at ttp://www.caromausa.com or http://www.ecoTransitions.com. To see why they work so well, please visit us on YouTube.