Chickamauga City Manager John Culpepper said Georgia’s mandated 10 percent reduction in water use is hurting his city, and it doesn’t even use water from the sources dwindling under Georgia’s drought.
“It is a unique situation,” Mr. Culpepper said. “Yes, we’ve had the same drought that everyone else had, but we’ve got something that no one else does — water.”
The record drought led to a ban on outdoor watering for residents of 61 North Georgia counties and orders for public water providers to reduce water withdrawals.
Georgia’s northwestern corner counties — Dade, Catoosa and much of Walker — share the Tennessee River Basin with Chattanooga. They are suffering the restriction hardships without the shortage, Mr. Culpepper said.
Their streams, like Lookout, Peavine and the Chickamauga creeks, flow north to the Tennessee River.
Areas south of Noble, Ga., however, such as LaFayette, use water from the drought-depleted Coosa River Basin.
The “unique situation” seems to justify requesting a waiver from the water use restrictions, and officials from the region have appealed to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for relief.
They are awaiting an answer.
Becky Champion with the DNR’s watershed protection branch said there is no definite answer yet.
“We are absolutely considering it,” she said. “We understand their situation.”
Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said he has been working with the Environmental Protection Division on the issue.
“EPD is acting very cautiously until we get their water plan passed,” he said.
Sen. Mullis said the water plan is progressing and should be approved by the end of March, and he’s “optimistic” that the waiver will be granted.
While Walker County and LaFayette met their 10 percent cutback mandate, Mr. Culpepper said he recently received a letter letting him know Chickamauga did not.
He said the mandate was “arbitrarily” put on his city.
“It reduces my revenue by 10 percent,” he said.
Jim Speir, director of LaFayette’s water, wastewater and sewerage system, said, “It is when our demand picks up later in the year when it would be more of a concern.”
LaFayette buys water from Walker and Catoosa counties, and officials said if a waiver is granted, they could sell LaFayette more water.
The officials, though, agree water conservation is wise.
“I want to make sure the message is, ‘We still believe we need to promote conservation,’” Sen. Mullis said. “We just request a little flexibility in the requirements.”