VILLA RICA, Ga. -- A west Georgia city is asking residents to cut back on water use as drought conditions worsen and supplies dwindle.
Officials with the city of Villa Rica put out a notice on Wednesday asking residents to voluntarily stop all outdoor watering due to a severe lack of rainfall that has lasted several months.
For Villa Rica Public Works Director Pete Zorbanos, Georgia's drought is as easy to see as a line in the sand.
"The water level is usually right here and goes around the base of the dam," Zorbanos said while standing several feet from the shore line of the city's reservoir.
Lake Fashion doubles as the city's reservoir, feeding water to the water treatment plant nearby. As of Wednesday afternoon a steady stream of water could be heard going in to an intake valve from Lake Fashion before it heads to the treatment plant.
But without rain, the reservoir has continued to drop.
"As you can see we are down, it is a little hard to read but it is at 10 foot," Zarbanos said.
The 10 foot mark is three feet below the reservoir's normal level. Part of that is due to the drought and part of that is due to the fact the city is in a water conservation mode.
The city is part of a larger swath of the northwest part of the state under "exceptional" drought conditions - the most severe level.
At this point, water bans are voluntary, however the city is in talks with the state's Environmental Protection Division to escalate alerts in the area which could mean that those restrictions become mandatory.
All the while, Villa Rica has begun drawing 300,000 gallons per day instead of a usual 500,000 gallons from Lake Cowan into Lake Fashion. Cowan feeds into Fashion, but city officials want to maintain levels in both lakes.
Now officials believe the city is about 20 to 25 days from having water drop below the second of three intake valves in its reservoir.
If that valve goes dry, the city will be forced to work on uncovering the third intake which is currently buried in silt. Even then, it could only guarantee another 20 days. After that, the lake intake could drop to as low as 2 to 3 feet.
"We think we may have in the neighborhood of about 30 to 40 day supply left at the rate we are running right now," Zorbaons said.
2010 Census numbers show Villa Rica's population is just under 14,000 people. A sudden increase from just over 4,000 according to 2000 Census numbers. Villa Rica has dealt with previous drought's, but the population spike has put more demand on the city's water system.
To meet the current demand during the drought, Villa Rica is purchasing water from the Carroll County Water Authority (CCWA).
The price for water though comes with a hefty bill.
In October Villa Rica spent $48,326 on water from CCWA. The city's finance office estimates that bill could increase to $60,000 if CCWA needed to provide 100 percent of the Villa Rica's water.
While the current state restrictions only require the city to encourage conservation, officials warned that it could be escalated to level two, which would potentially restrict outdoor watering to specific hours and days and addresses.
At level three, all outdoor irrigation systems would be prohibited for landscapes though food gardens could still be watered between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.
The water concerns in Villa Rica are only the latest in a string of emergency actions taken in the region. In October, Haralson County was forced to enact an emergency ban on outdoor watering when the county's main intake dried up due to dropping river levels.
The effects were so severe that emergency responders were sent out to the river to clear beaver dams in hopes of getting water once again flowing to residents.
Villa Rica is now joining Haralson County and wishing for several days of steady rain.
"Anything and everything would be a blessing to us and greatly appreciated," Zorbanos said. "It would kind of kick the can down the road if you would, to give us more room until we hopefully get into a wetter spring and sustain ourselves from there."
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