There's good news on the water front -- city officials have lifted the one-hour time restriction for Richmond County residents to water their lawns.
The decision to lift the outdoor-watering restriction was made by Mayor Larry Sconyers and Augusta Utilities Director Max Hicks about 2 p.m. Monday and the change went into effect at midnight.
"We're still asking people to water conservatively," Mr. Hicks said. "We'd hope people wouldn't turn it on in the morning and let it run all day."
He recommended watering for no more than two hours at a time.
And if tests today on a water main go well, a complete end to the watering restrictions won't be far behind, Mr. Hicks said.
Last week's rain was an important factor in the decision to ease restrictions before the 42-inch Berckmans Road water main is back in service, he said.
Combined with the decision to bypass the city's raw water reservoirs and pump water directly into the filter plant -- which allowed for an additional 2 to 2.5 million gallons per day of pumping capacity -- the rain enabled the city to ease the restrictions earlier than anticipated.
The city's reservoir levels have risen significantly since last week, Mr. Hicks said.
Any water received at the filter plant that was not immediately treated went back into the reservoirs, and the heavy rain Thursday and Friday also contributed to the gains.
The two reservoirs were at 13 feet and 14 feet, respectively, on July 13. Monday's levels had risen to 19 feet, one inch and 20 feet, one inch. The reservoirs are considered full at 29 feet.
Augustans have been under some type of outdoor watering restrictions since utility crews discovered a faulty turbine at the city's water-intake plant May 22.
As for the water main, officials hope to test it today for leaks, said Assistant Utilities Director Tom Wiedemeier.
They had hoped to have all the repairs completed Monday, but Mr. Wiedemeier said problems arose with welding the underside of the pipe at Peachtree Place and Bellevue Avenue, which caused a delay.
"It was fine when he (the welder) was on top or on the sides. But when he was inverted, the weld was beading up," he said.
Another welder who is more experienced with the specific type of welding being done on the pipe will begin work at 6 a.m. today to complete the job, Mr. Wiedemeier said. He estimated the work would take about three hours.
Once the welding is complete, crews will begin filling the four-mile line with water from both ends, a process that will take most of the day, he said.
If everything goes well with the test, the water main -- idle since 1996 -- could begin pumping 10 million gallons a day into the city's reservoirs by Wednesday or Thursday, Mr. Wiedemeier said.