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.

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Dekalb County, GA approves Water Rate Hike

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved an 11 percent water and sewer rate increase to pay for nearly $1.4 billion in water and sewer system upgrades in the County.

If your home was built prior to 1993 and you haven’t upgraded your toilets yet, you are wasting a significant amount of water and money. By upgrading an old, inefficient toilet to a WaterSense labeled High Efficiency Dual Flush toilet you can reduce your water usage between 40% and 70%. On top of the water savings achieved by reduced water usage, you will also receive a $100 rebate from Dekalb County Watershed (if you meet the requirements) – details can be found here. If you opt for a Caroma Dual Flush toilet, you can also retire your plunger, as these toilets virtually do not clog (want proof? view this flushing video from ecoTransitions).

Cobb water rates to increase 6% | ajc.com

Cobb water rates to increase 6%  | ajc.com.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Beginning in January, Cobb County residents will see a 6 percent increase in their water bills.

Commissioner Bob Ott voted against the water rate increase because of the bad economy.Cobb commissioners approved the increase on Tuesday along with a 4 percent wastewater rate increase. For the average bill payer, using 6,000 gallons of water a month, the rate hike equates to paying $2.37 more for water.

Water rates were originally scheduled to go up 8 percent, but the 6 percent increase is enough to cover distribution system maintenance and fee increases from Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority, the county’s water wholesaler.

In 2008, commissioners approved annual 8 percent water rate increases and 4 percent wastewater increases through 2012. The board is required to vote on the rate changes each year.

Earlier this month the county called for an external audit into millions in questionable loans and money management of the county’s water system. The audit announcement came as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was working on a month-long investigation into the same issues.

It’s official: Atlanta is the first City in the Southeast offering a toilet rebate program for apartment buildings and condominiums

Mayor Kasim Reed officially announced the first Multi-Family toilet rebate program in the Southeastern United States during the City of Atlanta’s Sustainability Week, October 25-29, 2010. In his  “Power to Change” speech, he outlined how Atlanta plans to become one of the top-ten sustainable cities in the nation.

Below you will find the details on the Multi-family toilet rebate program – you can also visit  the following link for the rebate application. http://www.atlantawatershed.org/owe/multi-family-toilet-rebate.htm

Multi-family Toilet Rebate Program

The City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management extends its high-efficiency toilet rebate to multifamily customers

Apartment and condominium communities that are City of Atlanta water customers may qualify if the following criteria are met:

  • The property was built prior to 1993
  • Existing toilets use more than 1.6 gallons per flush
  • Property owner/manager is up-to-date on water bill payments
  • Property owner/manager has water and sewer account with DWM
  • Property owner/manager agrees to a pre-installation water audit inspection by DWM
  • Property owner/manager purchases all fixtures and arranges for/pays for installation
  • Property owner/manager provides proof of purchase (original receipts) and proof of installation (plumber/contractor statement or invoice)
  • Property owner/manager contracts with a licensed waste hauler who will transport used porcelain toilets to one of two porcelain recyclers in the Atlanta area (documentation from recycler required)
  • Property owner/manager agrees to a post-installation verification site visit by DWM
  • Property owner/manager completes a multifamily toilet rebate application (which includes all documentation listed above)

If the above criteria are met, the property owner/manager will receive a $100 rebate for each toilet replaced with a 1.28 gallon-per-flush or less EPA WaterSense toilet. Look for the water sense label label.

Rebates will be applied to the water account(s) for the property in question.

Rebates will be applied to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis as long as funding is available.

For more information about the Multifamily Toilet Rebate Program, contact Jennifer Carlile, jcarlile@atlantaga.gov, (404) 546-1265.

Investor Report Scrutinizes Water Supply Reliability | Barry Nelson’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

Investor Report Scrutinizes Water Supply Reliability | Barry Nelson’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.

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

GA Lawmakers Pass Water Bill

Source

GA Lawmakers Pass Water Bill.

 The Georgia 2010 Legislature passed the Georgia Water Stewardship Act, a water conservation plan based on recommendations from the Governor’s Water Contingency Task Force. A majority of the Act’s provisions take effect in July 2012 and coincide with a federal court order requiring that Georgia reach a water-sharing agreement with Alabama and Florida by July 2012 or face significant reduced withdrawals from Lake Lanier. The water conservation measures include:

  • By August 2010, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division (EPD) must examine its programs and identify opportunities for water conservation.
  • Beginning in 2011, outdoor watering is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Farms, personal food gardens, nurseries, golf courses, and athletic fields are exempt from this provision.
  • By 2012, public water systems serving at least 10,000 individuals, and by 2013, all other public water systems, must conduct a water loss audit applying EPD’s minimum standards and best practices.
  • By July 2012, builders will have to use high-efficiency plumbing fixtures in all new construction and “submetering” to measure water use.

The Act also creates a 12-member committee to investigate opportunities to create additional water supplies, including reservoirs.

INFO: Contact Alice Miller-Keyes at 912-262-3185.