Feels like it’s rained a lot lately, doesn’t it? But all that rain doesn’t guarantee an unlimited water supply. Metro Atlanta depends almost entirely on rainfall and our ability to store water from rain events because we have little groundwater in the region.
At the moment, we’re tracking close to average rainfall for the past three years. We cannot count on that indefinitely, however. We know that droughts will occur, even if we don’t know when. And we know we will add more residents who will need water. Thus, we must plan carefully and thoughtfully to ensure an adequate water supply in the years ahead.
The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District (Metro Water District) creates regional water plans for water supply and conservation, stormwater and wastewater management. With limited water resources and a growing population, the region must effectively manage its vital water resources. To that end, the Metro Water District stands as a success story.
Created by the Georgia General Assembly in 2001 to promote regional management of metro Atlanta’s water resources, the Metro Water District includes 15 counties and 92 cities. The District’s comprehensive watershed, wastewater and water supply plans offer a blueprint that supports anticipated growth while protecting the environment. These plans help safeguard water quality and public drinking supplies, provide region-wide water conservation measures and minimize the potential detrimental impacts of continued urban and suburban development on waters in and downstream of the district. The District will adopt updated plans in 2016.
As we continually seek to improve our management of this precious resource, the Metro Water District builds on more than a decade of leadership, particularly when it comes to water conservation. The Water Supply and Water Conservation Management Plan mandates an aggressive water conservation program with 19 measures that are implemented by local systems. We know of no other major metropolitan area in the country where more than 100 jurisdictions are working together to implement such a comprehensive water conservation program. The pay-off has been substantial. Between 2000 and 2010, the region’s population increased by one million – or 20 percent – while total water use decreased by 10 percent.
The water conservation measures required by the plan include conservation pricing (the more you use, the more you pay); replacing older, inefficient plumbing fixtures; reducing water system leakage; and much more. For example, since the toilet rebate program began in 2008, more than 100,000 old, inefficient toilets have been replaced. This has resulted in savings of more than 575 million gallons of water per year. On the supply side, the Metro Water District has supported utilities in their efforts to identify and reduce system leaks. During the past three years, utilities have identified and repaired more than 23,000 leaks.
Yet, there is always more we can do. EPA estimates that leaks in the average home waste more than 10,000 gallons of water a year. Metro residents are encouraged to check for leaky toilets, faucets, showerheads or irrigation systems during EPA’s Fix a Leak week, March 16-22. More information on ways to use less water is available through the District’s website, My Drop Counts.
In spite of recent rains, it is imperative that we use our water resources wisely. We must build on the successes of the past decade to increase water efficiency and to step up protections of our watersheds. Together we will continue to move the region toward best-in-class water resources management.