While Columbia County officials have a few upgrades planned for the county's water system, they also are looking at some policy changes to discourage using too much water.
"It is something we are going to have to address this winter," said Water Superintendent Billy Clayton said. "We are going to have to address some of these people who are using an exorbitant amount of water two or three months out of the year."
For example, if a household uses more than 100,000 gallons of water, they could face an additional charge tacked onto their monthly water bill. Hopefully, that will discourage overuse, Mr. Clayton said.
"The logic behind that is: It is those folks that are requiring us to gear up and go out here and spend a lot money to have this capacity and those storages available," Mr. Clayton said. "It's not the customer that is using 10,000 gallons a month or the customer that is using 20,000 gallons a month."
But he also does not want to discourage the average citizen from using water outdoors.
"I know some folks have some really nice yards and some of them have fairly large yards, and they certainly need to have some anticipation of being able to protect that investment," he said, adding that the even with the highest use, residents should only be using about 40,000 gallons per month during the restrictions.
One of the reasons for the increased water use in the county are sprinkler systems, which are becoming a standard accessory with many homes.
"They are great things," Mr. Clayton said. "They are very efficient at putting water down on the yards without putting it down on three streets and sidewalks."
But there are problems: residents overuse the sprinklers and others don't know how to adjust timers to control flow.
"It's like a lot of people don't know how to program a VCR," he said. "These things are very similar -- you need the book to reprogram it. Unless you are playing with them every day, they can be pretty hard to program."