Originally created 05/27/98

Water restrictions mandatory



Four days after officials in Richmond and Columbia counties asked residents to voluntarily cut back water use outdoors, public water systems are more strained than ever.

Richmond County officials are making voluntary outdoor water use restrictions mandatory. Enforcement of the restrictions began Tuesday afternoon, Augusta Utilities Assistant Director Tom Wiedmeier said.

Residents were asked Friday to begin curtailing water use. The restrictions apply to washing cars, filling swimming pools, watering lawns and bathing pets.

"The problems have not gone away," he said.

Residents with even-numbered addresses are allowed to use water outdoors on even-numbered days of the month, and odd-numbered addresses may do so on odd-numbered days. Violators will receive warnings for the first offense and a $50 fine for the second. Mr. Wiedmeier said he did not know when the restrictions would be lifted.

Augusta is facing several problems, including a lack of water in south Augusta and a faulty turbine at a Savannah River intake plant, Mr. Wiedmeier said. The turbine should be repaired within two weeks.

The county also is working on several projects to connect south Richmond County water lines with water lines belonging to the former city of Augusta. This will alleviate most problems south of Gordon Highway, Mr. Wiedmeier said.

"We've had the problems in south Richmond County every summer for the past several years," he said.

Water supply is also becoming a problem in Columbia County.

"If we were a ball game, we'd have been in good shape. We'd have sold out," Columbia County water superintendent Billy Clayton said of the water system reaching near-capacity levels this weekend.

Water use from Columbia County's utility system reached 19.7 million gallons Monday, about 2 million gallons short of the county's capacity. The high demand prompted officials to tap into the county's 9 million gallon reserve supply, which had been partially replenished by midday Tuesday.

"We're waiting to see what happens in the weather in the next couple of days before we decide to go to mandatory conservation," Mr. Clayton said. "If we don't get any rain by this weekend, we'll definitely start imposing some mandatory conservation measures."

After nearly two weeks of temperatures in the 90s and little or no rain, the National Weather Service said there is a chance of rain today. Meteorologist Tenia Morrison said there is a 20 percent chance of showers this afternoon and a 40 percent chance tonight.

"That's the best we can do through the weekend," she said.