ATLANTA Georgia lifted tough outdoor water restrictions on Wednesday and declared an end to the drought that has gripped much of the state since late 2007.
"This drought has ended," Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch said. "Our water supplies are flush. Our rivers and streams have rebounded."
At a meeting of the State Drought Response Committee, Couch said that Georgia is moving to non-drought water rules. Homeowners can now water their lawns three days a week, based on whether they have an odd or even street addresses, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Heavy rainfall in recent months has helped Georgia and the rest of the Southeast emerge from the worst drought categories. Just a year ago, more than 40 percent of the region was mired in drought.
The state's climatologist said Wednesday that Georgia has seen the second wettest spring in 115 years.
Couch lauded Georgians in the 55 North Georgia counties under the drought restrictions for exceeding the state goal of a 10 percent drop in water consumption. Water use in those counties dropped by an average of 15 percent in the past 2 1/2 years with the state under Level 4 drought restrictions.
Those restrictions prohibit most types of outdoor residential water use although some counties received exemptions.
Couch on Wednesday said that Georgians need to remain vigilant about water conservation to prevent a repeat of the parched conditions.
Georgia Conservancy President Pierre Howard said Wednesday he remains concerned that the state has not done enough to encourage long-term water conservation efforts and could end up back in a dire drought conditions without changes.
"I don't feel like Georgia has been aggressive enough," the former Democratic lieutenant governor said.
"We need to start acting like the grown up state that we are."
Gov. Sonny Perdue is set to discuss the drought at a news conference at the governor's mansion at 1 p.m.