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Water management key to state’s future

    We’ve had a rainy spring. We’re talking regular gullywashers. And parts of Texas certainly aren’t the deserts shown in John Wayne films.
    So while California bakes in a four-year drought that is so severe unprecedented water restrictions are becoming their norm, Georgia seems to be sitting flush (pardon the pun).
    Even coupled with reports last month about Georgia’s water usage declining despite a 75 percent population growth from 1980 to 2010, there is still reason to be good stewards of our own water. Just because it’s wet now, doesn’t mean that next year won’t be the start of a drought here.
    Many hailed our state as the state to watch – and let California learn from us in our conservation. According to estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey, the amount of water withdrawn from Georgia rivers and aquifers dropped from a peak of 6.7 billion gallons per day in 1980 to 4.7 billion gallons per day in 2010. Those figures indicate a 30 percent overall usage drop and 43 percent drop per person. Most of those reductions came between 2000 and 2010, periods when Georgia faced two severe droughts.
    The reports of our declining use of water sounded great, but figures from the city of Jasper water department show the past decade as one of stagnancy. While water usage dropped in the 1990s when state laws began mandating low flow plumbing, Water Superintendent David Hall said usage here since that time remains relatively the same with water customers currently pulling 1.7 million of the available two million gallons a day from the city’s Long Swamp Creek and ground wells.
    To see the growth – or lack of it - in the city, we look to the city’s water system. Where there’s water, there is growth. But Jasper has seen almost no growth since the bottom dropped out of the housing market in 2007. According to Hall, the city has only sold between 200 and 300 meters since 2007 and that includes both residential and commercial.
    “We haven’t grown much,” he said. “If you look at 2007 and when 2017 gets here, you’re not going to see a big difference in that 10-year-span. Nothing like they talked about, in residential meters especially. You’re going to go 10 years without any growth at all. It’s been an almost idle decade.”
    In 2007, the city had 5,400 water meters. Today there are 5,787 and Hall said the city went a year and a half without selling any meters.
    Hall praised customers who, “for a long time when they needed to, they did conserve and the public did what they needed to do.” People, he said, are just more aware of their water usage than they were decades ago.
    We hope, water users will continue to look for ways to conserve water, despite the seeming abundance now.  From washing our cars less to checking our faucets and pipes for leaks or installing water-saving shower heads or using our dishwashers and clothes washers only with full loads, small efforts do make a difference.
    A little conservation over a long period of time establishes good habits and sets us up to handle dry times that will undoubtably roll back around.