Water Conservation Matters

10/11/07 11:08 pm

The growing water crisis in metro Atlanta is the topic of much concern in District 2.  Based on the information explored below, I believe that it’s time for DeKalb to assume a leadership position in water conservation for our region.  We have the capacity to act, a crisis at hand and, I believe, the will to make the difference.  Here’s what I plan to propose to the Commission as short term actions that can reduce water use:

1.  Lock all irrigation water meters in DeKalb County until the drought abates.  Irrigation meters are only for landscape irrigation systems.  All outdoor watering is currently prohibited, but many owners have not changed settings on their systems, and continue to waste water.  DeKalb should lock these meters now to insure that irrigation stops in most large scale systems.
2.  Revise building codes and development regulations to minimize water use.  DeKalb needs to severely curtail landscape irrigation in new development.  Our codes can mandate effective strategies, like landscaping with native plants, and putting rain sensors on sprinkler systems to prevent over-watering.
3.  “Buy back” water wasting fixtures.  Buildings constructed before 1993 likely have toilets that waste 2-3 gallons per flush.  The County should provide a sufficient incentive, or mandate replacement of old toilets at the time of building resale to eliminate 90% of these toilets within five years.  We should also explore turf reduction strategies.
4.  Adopt an “increasing block” structure for water rates.  This means that you are charged more per gallon for water used in excess of normal consumption.  This discourages high water usage, both by homeowners and businesses.  In DeKalb, this would replace a “declining block” which provides volume discounts for large users.
In the longer term, the Department of Watershed Management proposes other strategies that will drive conservation.  These include:
1.  Eliminate “lost water.” Almost 20% of the drinking water produced in DeKalb is unaccounted for – most of that leaks out of the pipes and is lost.  DeKalb should establish a target for lost water that is lower that the regional average of 9%.  This will require costly maintenance and replacement, but is the biggest thing we can do to reduce water waste.
2.  Eliminate all septic tanks where sewer is available.  A surprising number of buildings in DeKalb still use septic systems, even where sewer is available.  These systems can pollute streams, and don’t return water to the river system.  Within five years, these systems must hook up to the sewer system, with the expense financed through a surcharge on the former septic system’s sewer bill.

As a more mature jurisdiction in the Atlanta Region, DeKalb is better positioned than some to weather the crisis.  DeKalb has a new drinking water treatment plant, adequate distribution systems, and the required withdrawal permits to supply all our customers, provided there’s water in the Chattahoochee.  But this drought has put that assumption into question.  With more going out of the reservoir than is going in, the States of Georgia, Alabama and Florida, the Army Corps of Engineers (who control Lake Lanier) and the Metro North Georgia Water District must act now to prevent the River from running dry.

But DeKalb must also adopt a stronger stewardship ethic towards this essential resource, and there couldn’t be a better time than now.  Last week, Dr. Francis Kung’u, the Director of DeKalb’s Department of Watershed Management appeared before the County Commission Planning and Land Use Committee.   I chair the Committee, and committee member Kathie Gannon was also in attendance. Q&A from that meeting is attached.

Dr. Kung’u was there to present water conservation efforts that would be undertaken through the proposed new Rate Structure, currently before the Commission.  If adopted, the new rates will also provide funding for system maintenance and expansion.  The proposed Rate Structure will involve a substantial increase in water and sewer rates for all users, but is weighted to place most of the burden on large water users, and continues to provide value for money, compared to other jurisdictions .  In the plan, the need to conserve is balanced against cost to DeKalb rate payers, and the need to generate sufficient revenue to fund the system.  More information on the proposed rate structure is accessible at

DeKalb’s current strategy is driven by the Metro North Georgia Water District’s Water Supply and Conservation Plan.  The district is responsible for regional strategies to reduce water waste and secure long term supplies.  The work of the District is critical to providing a level playing field between water systems, so that we who invest in conservation won’t be at a disadvantage to those who squander this essential resource.

Please contact our office at or 404.371.2863 with your questions and comments.
To see update water restrictions, please visit,

With best regards,

Related Documents:

Water Conservation Questions 

Water Conservation Article in Champion Newspaper 


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(Commissioner Jeff Rader represents District Two on DeKalb County's Board of Commissioners. He was reelected in November of 2010 for another four-year term.)

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