Coweta Kindred Souls/ STOP

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Coweta's Board of Commissioners was asked Tuesday to consider some sort of moratorium on residential construction until the drought lifts.

Newnan resident Norma Haynes spoke to the commission about her concerns. On Friday, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division implemented an almost total watering ban for the northern third of Georgia.

"I think it's time we do something about it right here in Coweta County and in the city of Newnan," she said. On Tuesday's agenda were three public hearings for residential rezonings.

"I see our county being eaten alive, literally eaten alive, with pavement, buildings, everything," Haynes said. "Where is the water coming from to furnish all of these new homes, new buildings, new people that are coming in?"

Haynes said she doesn't have an answer to the problem. But, "I know I am sitting there watching my yard and my trees that I love so dearly dry up while new landscaping is being put in and it's being watered, and more and more is added," she said.

Landscaping that has been installed by a commercial landscaper can be watered for 30 days.

"Those of us who have established our places and worked hard and enjoyed them, we're watching them dry up," Haynes said.

But that doesn't concern her nearly as much as the thought of one day having to deal with restrictions on the water we use indoors. "I think one of these days, and it's not far, we're going to be paying for it on the inside."

"I think it's time for us as citizens to get together and decide how we want our county to end up," Haynes said. "And I hope that you all will take some consideration and think about this. We are on a dead-end road until it rains."

"What do you want us to do?" asked Commissioner Leigh Schlumper.

Haynes said she isn't sure what the answer is, but added, "I do think we've got to stop some of the building." She doesn't want growth to stop, but perhaps a moratorium is needed until the drought ends. She's especially concerned about all the landscaping that the county rules require before a certificate of occupancy can be issued.

Schlumper asked County Attorney Jerry Ann Conner if the county could implement a building moratorium because of water.

"You can, if you can determine there is a need for that," Conner said.

Residential permits have been down for the past several months, said Chairman Tim Higgins.

If the county stops allowing homes, "Building everywhere else doesn't stop, so what you end up with is a lot of annexations," Schlumper said. She said that there are a lot of large landowners who "just can't keep their property up anymore."

"How can we turn people down for the highest and best use?" Schlumper asked.

Haynes said she understands that completely. But maybe there are other things that can help, such as loosening the landscaping requirements until the drought breaks.

Schlumper said the new YMCA building is certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. The building is designed to use gray water, from the showers, to irrigate landscaping. It also collects rainwater. Treated waste water from the new decentralized sewer systems could also be used for irrigation, said Commissioner Randolph Collins.

The county's new zoning rules offer density incentives for LEEDs and EarthCraft certified buildings.

Chances of justifying a moratorium are slim, though, because Coweta County has plenty of water.

The Level IV water restrictions are in place because of a state mandate. Previously, the Coweta County Water and Sewerage Authority was on Level III restrictions, but only because the city of Atlanta was on Level III. Because Coweta is an Atlanta customer, it has to abide by Atlanta's regulations.

If there weren't any mandates coming down, Coweta probably wouldn't even be under watering restrictions.

"We would be in good shape," Ellis Cadenhead, general manager of the water and sewer authority, said on Wednesday. And with the various contracts Coweta has to purchase water from other jurisdictions, "We should be in very good shape in the years to come."

Newnan Utilities is similarly well-situated, according to Brandon Lovett, director of water operations. Last week, Lovett said the city's reservoirs were above the level that would call for any restrictions.

Even Heard County, which was on the brink of running out of water earlier this summer, is doing OK. Heard County received approval several months ago to hook into Coweta's system for emergency supplies, but it hasn't needed to do that so far. However, the Heard County Water Authority will soon begin taking bids on constructing the tie-in, said Director Jimmy Knight. Heard already has a connection with Carroll County, but hasn't had to use it. Heard is still able to sell some water to Randolph County, Ala. The Heard County Water Authority has had a contract with Randolph County since 1985, Knight said. It's a small amount, Knight said, and that amount has been reduced substantially. And Heard County customers most definitely come first, he said.

The Heard County Water Authority has received permission to draw and treat water from an abandoned rock quarry. Knight said a test run on that operation would be held today. But only a test run will be needed, at least for the moment.

"We're still hanging in there, still taking care of ourselves," Knight said. But "if it doesn't rain in the next couple or three weeks, we're probably going to have to use it."

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