New water recycling plans approved by the Athens-Clarke County Commission could potentially lower drought probability to almost 0% according to an assessment presented by the public works department in January.
The assessment determined the existing drought resilience of Clarke County and created solutions for the county to become more water efficient in the future. The water recycling plan would in part increase the amount of useable water in Bear Creek Reservoir. Athens draws drinking water from the Middle and North Oconee Rivers as well, but in droughts Bear Creek is the only source of water.
This plan will mean sending water to the reservoir from water treatment plants instead of back into the Oconee river. Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Jerry Nesmith says water recycling will greatly benefit the county.
“This will divert at least part of that water into a water reuse system. Where it will go back to our manufacturing and industry facilities that use water,” said NeSmith.
The plan will not effect drinking water. Instead, the plan will take used drinking water, clean it and put it back into the reservoir to be reused for industrial purposes. The most common uses will be for irrigation and air conditioner units for businesses.
Athens residents have already reduced their water consumption by 30 percent since the last severe drought. According to officials, this plan will ensure that Athens will remain a good place to live and work.
“In 20 years, there’s a risk of running out of water, employers aren’t gonna want to be in Athens. You know, they either won’t come or they’ll leave. And people won’t be able to live here anymore if there’s just not enough water.” Said Marilyn Hall, Water Conservation Coordinator for Athens-Clarke County.
The program could start as early as next year. The cost of the plan is still being determined but there is money set aside in the next year’s budget to fund water recycling.
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By: Grace Holland