Harlem officials aren't just looking to Columbia County or the heavens for water these days. They're turning an eye to the ground.
"The city's trying to be a little more independent and not have to rely so much on that majority (of its drinking water) coming from the county," said John McClellan, of G. Ben Turnipseed Engineers Inc., who is contracted by Harlem as its city engineer.
Mr. McClellan said the move to find more of Harlem's drinking water via wells would make the city less susceptible to county water rate increases and give the city more flexibility on the amount of water it uses.
"If there's ever any kind of crisis and the county needs more water, for instance with these drought conditions we've got, the city has a little more flexibility having their own source," Mr. McClellan said.
Daniel Cason, Harlem's public works director, said the city already has three wells but they don't produce much water. The goal is to find at least one good spot to locate a large well.
"What they're trying to do is hit fissures or cracks in the rock that carry the water, and so they've got these various maps they'll utilize to try to find that water," Mr. McClellan said.
Recently, Harlem's City Council approved a first phase of exploration for groundwater sites at a cost of $7,940 by A&S Environmental Services Inc., of Lilburn, Ga.
In addition to examining maps of the area, workers with A&S will talk to those who have drilled wells in Harlem in the past. From there, a recommendation will be given to the city council about possible sites.
The city could then decide to have those sites tested for groundwater quality.
Mr. McClellan said the amount of suitable groundwater found would determine the city's future dependency on water supplied by Columbia County's Water Department. He said he doesn't believe the city would fully ween itself from the county.
Billy Clayton, Columbia County's waterworks director, said Harlem currently receives about 380,000 gallons of water a day from the county and he encourages the city's effort to find additional water sources.
Should that move reduce the city's demand on county water, it wouldn't have a large effect on the amount the county receives in water fees and would free up the system for growth in other areas.
"It would just give us a little more room on the end of the growth scale to operate with without us having to expand more," Mr. Clayton said.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.