By Kerry Armstrong, Chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission Board
In the 1990s, metro Atlanta’s post-Olympics development boom was threatened by a lack of wastewater treatment capacity. Less than a decade later, a severe drought brought the region’s main water source, Lake Lanier, to historically low levels.
Things have changed, dramatically. Metro Atlanta has become a leader in water resources planning and water conservation.
Consider these numbers:
- Since 2000, total water withdrawals in the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District have decreased by 10 percent, even as the 15-county region’s population increased by one million.
- Per capita water use in the district has decreased by more than 20 percent since 2000.
- Efficient low-flow toilets are saving 2.4 million gallons of water per day in the District, enough to fill 22 million bathtubs.
These are significant achievements that directly affect the region’s ability to grow and maintain its quality of life and economic vitality into the future.
How did we get here so quickly?
It took vision, bold decisions, and close collaboration by government officials, civic and business leaders and residents across metro Atlanta.
In 2001, the Georgia General Assembly created the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District (Metro Water District) to establish policy, create plans and promote intergovernmental coordination of all water issues in the District. The newly created Metro Water District engaged in a comprehensive two-year planning process for storm water, wastewater and water supply and water conservation.
Today the District brings together 15 counties, 92 cities and more than 60 water utilities to implement an array of strategies designed to protect water quality and ensure we use the region’s water more efficiently.
The Metro Water District’s conservation efforts show that regional collaboration can yield significant results.
What have they achieved?
- Ten years ago, conservation pricing (the more you use, the more you pay) was a rarity in metro Atlanta. Today, water utilities serving more than 99 percent of the region’s population have implemented tiered rate structures that encourage customers to conserve.
- Utilities have also stepped up their efforts to find and fix system leaks. Over the last three years, more than 23,000 water system leaks have been repaired.
- Residents of the region have reduced water usage in their homes and landscapes and replaced outdated appliances with efficient water-saving appliances.
- Since 2008, more than 100,000 old, inefficient toilets in the region have been replaced through toilet rebate programs offered by local governments or through the Metro Water District, resulting in estimated savings of more than 2.4 million gallons of water per day, enough to fill 22 million bathtubs.
This is good news for metro Atlanta. But as long as the region continues to prosper and grow, we will need to find new and more efficient ways to conserve our water supply.
Summer is a time when water use increases as we fill swimming pools and water lawns. As we relax in the warm weather, let’s think about how we can reduce our water use even further so that we can all count on a sustainable future for the metro Atlanta region.
Want to reduce your water usage? Visit MyDropCounts.org and find:
- Tips for using water wisely
- Water Use Calculator to find out how much water you really use
- Links to Toilet Rebate Programs
- Pledge to reduce your water usage