Governor Calls for State Agencies, Utilities to Cut Water Use

Wednesday, October 24th 2007, 9:24 pm
By: News On 6

WEST POINT, Ga. (AP) -- Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday banned the washing of state vehicles and ordered inmates to take one quick shower a day as part of an effort to reduce water use in the drought-stricken state.

Standing on the banks of a dwindling lake, Perdue ordered state agencies to reduce their water consumption by 10 to 15 percent as the state struggles with one of the worst droughts in its history.

The governor's order also bans the installation of new landscaping and power washing state buildings. It also requires employees to probe state buildings for leaks.

``That means inmates, one quick shower. Fire trucks going unwashed. Entire departments using paper plates at least once a week,'' he said. ``These are the kinds of innovative, creative things we can all do to conserve.''

Almost a third of the Southeast is covered by an ``exceptional'' drought _ the worst drought category. The Atlanta area, with a population of 5 million, is in the middle of the affected region.

With a dry winter in the forecast and less than 80 days of stored water left in Lake Lanier, the north Georgia reservoir that supplies water to about 3 million residents, the state has already ordered restrictions and Perdue has warned of more.

State climate experts say the drought is so severe, one like it typically develops only once in 100 years.

Georgia last week sued the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages regional water resources, demanding it send less water from Georgia lakes downstream to Florida and Alabama.

A spokeswoman for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said Georgia's conservation measures should have been imposed earlier. Riley called a news conference for Thursday _ outside a nuclear plant that relies on river water _ to call for more flow from Georgia.

Riley has said Georgia's actions could reduce the flow of water to the point that industries and power plants are forced to stop production.

``I think the question should be asked, 'Why is Georgia only imposing these restrictions at this time?''' said Riley spokeswoman Tara Hutchison. ``Birmingham has conserved an estimated two billion gallons of water.''

Perdue has also asked President Bush to declare the drought-stricken region a federal disaster area and order that the release of Georgia water be reduced.

A disaster declaration would be an unusual move by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which said the last time the federal government made such a declaration for a drought was in 1977.

Elsewhere in the South, rain fell across North Carolina, but forecasters say it won't be enough to alleviate dry conditions.

The region ``needs about 15 to 20 inches within two weeks, and that's pretty much unheard of,'' said Scott Krentz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. ``We need a couple tropical-type systems to move inland.''