Originally created 09/27/00

No sign of easing restrictions



Local officials are waiting for a signal to end months of watering restrictions, but that's not expected to happen in the near future, state officials said.

No movement has been made toward changing the watering restrictions that were imposed statewide in June, said Nap Caldwell, manager of the state Environmental Protection Division's water resources management program.

"There are no predictions (of an end date) at this time," Mr. Caldwell said.

Augusta's year-to-date rainfall averages are 2.49 inches below normal, and 4.83 more inches of precipitation must fall before the region officially moves out of drought conditions.

Richmond and Columbia counties were operating under local water conservation schedules when the state restrictions took effect to address dry weather and low reservoir levels.

Columbia County officials eliminated the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. watering restrictions Sept. 19 to match Richmond County's watering system. But even the weakened restrictions were probably not necessary, said Bill Clayton, Columbia County director of water and sewer.

"We would have actually dropped all of our restrictions, but the state said `no,"' he said. "Other parts of the state are not faring as well, (and) the ground water needs time to recharge."

In South Carolina, Edgefield County Water and Sewer Authority Administrator Richard Shaffer said the county is pumping nearly 50 percent less water than it did this summer.

"We're in good shape," Mr. Shaffer said. "But we've never lifted our (voluntary watering restrictions) because the state has not rescinded its moderate drought status."

Despite more favorable weather conditions, Georgia water resources are not up to acceptable levels, Mr. Caldwell said.

"We can't afford to get caught in a false sense of security," he said. "We could find ourselves next spring wondering whether we pulled back too soon."

Brantley Kouglar, Richmond County's water production superintendent, said, "We're just sitting on go as far as when they give the word."

Residents and businesses in Richmond and Columbia counties using underground systems or multiple sprinklers will continue to follow an even/odd watering schedule that matches street addresses with the day of the week. No watering is allowed Mondays, and there are no time restrictions. Residents with wells and streams must follow state restrictions.

Staff Writer Katie Throne contributed to this article.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227.