Columbus hits its water numbers

A week into state-mandated water restrictions because of a historic drought, Columbus citizens have answered the call to conserve.

The city, by order of Gov. Sonny Perdue, is limited to an average of 27.7 million gallons of Chattahoochee River water per day. Since the restriction went into effect Nov. 1, Columbus has used an average of 26.5 million gallons per day. The only day the city went over the target was the first day of restrictions when the Columbus Water Works distributed 150,000 more gallons than permitted.

Water Works President Billy Turner is not surprised that Columbus is about 4 percent under the state number, which is an average of what was distributed in Columbus last winter.

The state has yet to announce what the penalties will be if a permitted governmental water system or business fails to comply with the 10-percent reduction.

"The people of Columbus are addressing the drought appropriately, and we feel good about that," Turner said Tuesday.

The Water Works plans to appeal to the state Environmental Protection Division its inclusion in the state restrictions, which apply to 61 mostly North Georgia counties. Tuner said the city will use the fact that it has responded in a positive manner when it makes its case to EPD Director Carol Couch.

"That is certainly what we are going to say," Turner said.

The Water Works will also point to the fact that it has a history of doing the right thing. In the mid 1990s, Columbus was the only community in the state to meet a deadline to address its Combined Sewer Overflow issues. By doing that, the city is able to put more treated water back in the river. Turner also points to the fact that Help the Hooch, a river cleanup effort, draws 10,000 volunteers in Columbus, which is more people than participate along the rest of the river combined.