Community News Drought-like conditions could affect water supply for North Georgia towns

Community News Drought-like conditions could affect water supply for North Georgia towns

August 12th, 2016 by Katie Ward in Community Walker

The corn crop on farms in Walker County has been stunted by extreme drought conditions spanning the tri-state area around Chattanooga.

Photo by Ben Benton /Times Free Press.

In light of the drought-like conditions across the area, the city of LaFayette is urging citizens to conserve water.

"It depends on rainfall how long this lasts," City Manager David Hamilton said, referring to the Georgia Water Stewardship Act. "We are 11 inches of rainfall behind. Particularly with the lack of rainfall it can affect the water supply."

Several weeks ago, the city sent out notifications to its water customers in LaFayette and Rock Spring reminding them of the act and asking them to be mindful of how much water they're using.

"Although no emergency water plans are in effect at this point, it is a fact that our local water sources are dependent upon local rainfall and have been affected by the lack of rain," the letter read. "We, along with state government officials are closely monitoring rainfall and the water supply and as always planning for any potential adverse effects on the water supply. With this in mind, we're asking our water consumers and citizens to begin conserving water in any way possible. In addition, we want to remind our water consumers that the state of Georgia enacted the Georgia Water Stewardship Act on June 2, 2010 and is currently in force in order to ensure that we conserve our precious water resources, and in order to better plan for any potential emergencies."

In a followup interview, Hamilton spouted off several easy ways to conserve water: "Citizens should only water their lawns between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. and limit the use of irrigation. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. Limit the use of water with regards to showers. Don't let the shower run for five minutes before you get in," he said.

The statewide Stewardship Act will be in effect until the Legislature votes to repeal it, said Hamilton. It allows daily outdoor watering for purposes of planting, growing, managing or maintaining ground cover, trees, shrubs or other plants only between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. by anyone whose water is supplied by a water system permitted by the Environmental Protection Division, he explained.

Ringgold Mayor Nick Millwood said the whole area is behind in rainfall and the city of Ringgold is no exception.

"It's an area thing," said Millwood, although adding, "We have been in much worse condition before.

"Our water source is the Chickamauga Creek and that creek still has plenty of water in it. As long as that creek is OK, we have water for the community."

Millwood said he can still kayak down Chickamauga Creek without having to get out and drag his kayak.

"It's great water flow,"he said. "We at this point have not had to ration [water] at all because we have a reliable water source with the [Chickamauga] creek."

Other area municipalities — which draw their water from the Tennessee River — aren't worried either.

Both Fort Oglethorpe and Rossville get their water from Tennessee American Water Co., which draws from the river to provide water for some 390,000 people in Tennessee and North Georgia.

"We don't have a drought situation in Fort Oglethorpe," said Mayor Earl Gray. "We get our water from Tennessee American Water, so we don't have concerns. LaFayette gets their water from springs. Catoosa Utility gets their water from springs too. And the drought certainly affects those."

However, that does not mean the city is immune to issues brought on by the drought.

"Our biggest concern is the dried-out ground cracking the water pipes," Gray said. "We have had two big main pipe problems and some small ones. Hopefully, it's another month of this only."

Rossville, on the other hand, is seeing a silver lining from the lack of rain clouds.

"The only way the drought has affected us is that we are not having as much stormwater infiltration into the sewer system," said Mayor Teddy Harris. "And I guess [Rossville Public Works Director] Mark Harris is not doing as much mowing in the city, but concentrating on other stuff."

The city of Chickamauga gets its water from the Tennessee River, through an underground spring, but is not a customer of Tennessee American. Still, City Manager Micheal Haney said they city has not tapped into any issues.

"Everybody in the Tennessee Water Basin we have plenty of water," said Haney. "The demand picks up for water when it's hot outside, but we do not have a loss in water supply. In August, the city of Chickamauga pumps on average 900,000 to a million gallons of water per day. We have the ability to pump 1.8 million gallons per day, but we are permitted to pump 1.3 million gallons per day.

"Looking at Walker County, they pump 20 to 30 times more than us because they cover a larger area."