DeKalb Watering Restrictions Eased

June 14, 2009

DeKalb County and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) have eased the outdoor watering restrictions that were in effect as a result of the recent drought.

Under the new rules, odd-numbered street addresses can water on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Sundays. Even-numbered addresses can water on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

To help with water efficiency, it is recommended that residents avoid any outdoor watering between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.


DeKalb’s Plumbing Retrofit Rebate Program

January 14, 2008

In response to the drought and greater need for water conservation, DeKalb County has adopted a rebate program for homeowners who purchase new water-efficient plumbing fixtures.  Here are the details of the program, as quoted from a press release issued by the county:

“The program will provide a $100 rebate to customers who purchase and install a high efficiency toilet that has received EPA Water Sense labeling with a capacity of 1.28 gallons per flush and a $50 rebate to customers who install a low flow toilet with a capacity of 1.6 gallons per flush.

The program is only available for DeKalb County individually metered residential dwelling water and sewer customers whose homes were constructed prior to 1993.

With the goal of reducing the costs to retrofit homes and buildings with low-flow fixtures, $500,000 has been allocated to the Department of Watershed Management for this program.  Rebates will be issued for a maximum of three (3) toilets per household. The rebate check will be issued to the property owner.

The DeKalb County Commissioners approved the resolution to adopt a Toilet Retrofit Rebate Program during the regularly scheduled BOC meeting on January 8, 2008. The Retrofit Rebate Program will give DeKalb citizens an incentive to replace inefficient toilets and practice conservation.

For guidelines and more information on the Toilet Retrofit Rebate Program as well as updated outdoor water restrictions and conservation tips, please visit the DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management website at www.dekalbwatershed.com.”


Retrofitting Tax Incentives & Water Update

November 11, 2007

I appreciate and enjoy the responses I receive from constituents to the e-mail newsletters I send out.  One e-mail that generated a lot of responses was my recent discussion of the water crisis. 

Since the mid-1990s, all newly constructed homes have been required to include water-efficient plumbing fixtures.  There is legislation that was introduced in 2004 and will be introduced again in 2008 to require retrofitting of outdated plumbing fixtures in older homes to new, water-efficient fixtures, at the time of resale of the home.  This “retrofit at resale” legislation stirs up a hornet’s nest of opposition because it is heavy-handed and selective in whom it impacts. 

As an alternative approach, I will introduce two bills for the 2008 legislative session designed to create incentives for retrofitting old plumbing fixtures.  One will be a tax credit, although the amount and form of the credit will need to be ironed out.  The other will add water-efficient products to the current sales tax holiday for energy-efficient products.

Hopefully we all can agree that retrofitting old plumbing fixtures should be highly encouraged.  I would hate to see us come out of the 2008 legislative session without having passed anything that spurs retrofitting, and only having generated a lot of rancor over the “retrofit at resale” legislation.

A couple of constituents disagreed with reducing the water releases from Lake Lanier.  Here is an example:  “Atlanta is just like LA, they would suck every river and stream dry if they could at the expense of others.  Alabama and Florida are as entitled to their share of the water as Georgia.”

I don’t advocate cutting off all water to Alabama, Florida, and downstream endangered species.  If you have looked at the Chattahoochee River recently, you will notice that it is filled to the brim with water.  The rate of water releases from Lake Lanier can be reduced without killing off downstream interests, a fact the Army Corps of Engineers recently confirmed:  “What it comes down to is whether we can reduce the flows enough to still save the species and meet all the users’ needs downstream.  We’re finding now that the power plants and a lot of the other interests can operate at something less than the current flows.”

One constituent hit the nail on the head:  “My wife, dog, and I walk along the Chattahoochee River several times a week.  All summer, we’ve been amazed watching the river.  Who’d know there was a drought based upon how it’s been flowing?  This week, every time we’ve been to the river it’s appeared to be even higher than usual.  I don’t understand how this could be since it hasn’t rained in nearly two weeks and there’s now supposedly some agreement that the Army Corps of Engineers isn’t going to let it all go downstream.  Well, I just checked out the Vinings gauge, and sure enough, the river is higher!”

The federal government continues to release water from Lake Lanier in alarming amounts.  Governor Perdue had reached an agreement with Governor Riley of Alabama, Governor Crist of Florida, and federal officials to reduce the rate of these water releases, but the latest news is that Florida wants to renege on that deal.

We must continue working to reduce the excessive and rapid draining of Lake Lanier, and create new capacity by investing in reservoirs that would be controlled by the state, not by the federal government.

Meanwhile, here in DeKalb County, there rightly should be a great deal of consternation over the county’s insatiable appetite for immense new development projects.  CEO Vernon Jones points his finger at everyone but himself:  “We cannot conserve our way out of this crisis.  Washington and the state have failed to plan.”  Yet, under the Georgia Constitution, zoning, land use, and development are exclusive powers exercised solely by local governments (counties and cities, not the state government).

Commissioner Jeff Rader brings to light an important point:  “Almost 20% of the drinking water produced in DeKalb is unaccounted for — most of that leaks out of the pipes and is lost.  DeKalb should establish a target for lost water that is lower that the regional average of 9%.  This will require costly maintenance and replacement, but is the biggest thing we can do to reduce water waste.”

The county recently raised water rates.  The bulk of this rate increase won’t be used to fix leaks and help homeowners get connected to the sewer system instead of septic, which the county presently charges individual homeowners several thousand dollars to do.  It will be used for water and sewer capacity increases in South DeKalb, further compounding the problem of water consumption.

I am ready to do my part to help alleviate our water woes.  Elected officials at all levels need to focus on the issue.  It’s a complex problem.  There is no single doorstep on which to lay blame, and there is no single solution.  The solutions (plural) will require a combination of increasing our available water sources, better management of existing resources, and conservation measures.


Water, Water Everywhere . . . Except Here

October 30, 2007

Depending on which news outlets you follow, North Georgia and a large swath of the southeastern United States are in the throes of a drought that is “exceptional” (the official National Weather Service terminology for it), “unprecedented,” “historic,” or “epic.” All of these adjectives are fitting.

Meanwhile, every day the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases more than three billion – with a “b” – gallons of water from Lake Lanier, a major water source for Metro Atlanta. Lake Lanier is now fifteen feet below its full level. That level continues to drop.

The water is sent downstream on the Chattahoochee River to cool a nuclear power plant in Alabama, support Florida’s oyster industry where the Apalachicola River (into which the Chattahoochee flows) meets the Gulf of Mexico, and sustain mussels and sturgeon that are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, among other purposes.

Lake Lanier is a man-made lake, created by damming and flooding a portion of the Chattahoochee River. If it didn’t exist, and Buford Dam wasn’t in place to regulate the flow of water from Lake Lanier into the Chattahoochee, we’d all be bearing the brunt of the drought in proportions determined by nature: Metro Atlanta, Alabama, Florida, mussels, and sturgeon alike. Instead, the water releases by the Corps of Engineers ensure that all downstream interests have the water they need, while Metro Atlanta stares down an impending crisis on its own.

Legal wrangling and bureaucratic cajoling are underway to decrease the rate of water releases from Lake Lanier. It’s another chapter in the ongoing “water wars” between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida that date back to at least 1990. Unfortunately, once this latest chapter of the water wars is written, there is no guarantee that Metro Atlanta will live happily ever after. The decisions that need to be made are in the hands of various federal agencies and a federal court sitting in Jacksonville, Florida.

We need solutions over which Georgia has greater control. A solution that is gaining steam for the 2008 legislative session, which begins in January, is appropriating substantial funds for the construction of new reservoirs to collect and impound additional water. This appropriation likely will be coupled with legislation to streamline the state process for approving construction of new reservoirs. Currently, that process can take approximately eight to ten years.

Local governments like DeKalb County urgently need to implement those solutions over which they exercise control. Enforcing water use restrictions is a good start.

DeKalb may want to rethink its addiction to ultra high-density development projects, which isn’t helping the water crisis. Alternatively, impact fees should be imposed on the developers who are seeking to build thousands upon thousands of new condominiums and apartments in DeKalb County. Among other water-saving uses, these impact fees could be utilized to repair leaks that plague the water system which serves our county. Impact fees already are authorized under state law. DeKalb has yet to implement them, despite past promises that the county would do so.

Believe it or not, there are some homes in our DeKalb County neighborhoods that still operate on septic tanks. A few homes in Pine Hills, in Dunwoody Forest, on Harts Mills Road, on Dunwoody Lane, which is near Montgomery Elementary, and on Berkeley Lane, which is in Toco Hills, are examples. The county should connect such homes to the sewer system as soon as possible, to ensure that treated wastewater ultimately is returned to the waterways from which it came. DeKalb has a lower percentage of homes on septic systems than most other counties, but reducing this number to zero is a worthwhile endeavor under present dire circumstances.

A version of this post was published in the November 7 edition of the Dunwoody Crier.


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