Despite recent rains, Lake Lanier is still about 6 feet low after a severely dry 2016 and early 2017. As a result, much of metro Atlanta remains in a Level 2 drought response.
What can you do to help? Join our new Society of Intentionally Dry Lawns by drastically reducing your outdoor watering and only watering when absolutely necessary. We’ll send you a yard sign to let the neighborhood know you are a member of the society — and how committed you are to conserving water.
It’s a fun way that the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, which is staffed by ARC, is working to reduce outdoor water use. The effort is part of My Drop Counts, the Metro Water District’s ongoing water conservation campaign.
And coming soon, you’ll be able to refer friends and family to the Society and accrue rewards points that can be redeemed for prizes, such as a tubing trip down the Chattahoochee, a garden gnome to sit beside your yard sign, and a free drought-tolerant landscape plan from Legacy Landscape Design.
“With all the rain we’ve had lately, it’s easy to forget that we’re in a drought,” said Katherine Zitsch, Manager of Natural Resources at ARC. “But Lake Lanier still hasn’t recovered from this drought, which began in 2016. And, during a typical summer, Lake Lanier can drop 5 feet or more between July 1 and Dec. 1. So it’s critically important that all of us take steps to conserve water.”
Reducing outdoor watering —or eliminating it altogether — can make a big difference. The average American household uses more water outdoors than for showering and washing clothes combined, according to the EPA.
Turning off the sprinklers isn’t as difficult as it may seem. A modest amount of rain — about an inch a week — is all it takes to keep lawns and plants healthy. It also helps to plant shrubs and ground covers well-adapted to our region that don’t need as much water.
It’s been raining a lot. Why hasn’t Lake Lanier filled up?
The rain deficit over the past year has just been too great, especially in the area north of Lake Lanier that drains into the reservoir. The lake dropped to about 11 feet below “full pool” last winter, the low point of the 2016-17 drought.
Spring rains certainly have helped, but the reservoir is still nearly 6 feet low — the lowest the lake has been at this time of year since 2012.
Won’t summer rains help fill the reservoir?
That’s possible. But Lake Lanier is typically recharged by soaking winter rains. In the summer, we often see fast-moving storms that aren’t as helpful at filling the lake as the steady rain showers that occur during the winter.
And lake levels typically fall each summer, due to evaporation, reservoir management and other factors. Last summer, which was especially dry, Lake Lanier fell nearly 10 feet.
Of course, a hurricane or other large rain event could help fill the lake. In September 2009, for instance, Lanier rose by more than 3.5 feet in just 10 days. But that’s unpredictable.
What is the current drought response for metro Atlanta?
The state has placed much of the Atlanta region in a Level 2 drought response, which restricts outdoor watering. This includes residents and businesses in Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall, and Paulding counties.
Residents and businesses in these areas should only water when necessary, up to twice a week – and only before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Even addresses and sites with no numbered address may water on Wednesday/Saturday, and odd addresses may water on Thursday/Sunday.
Outdoor watering activities that are NEVER allowed in a Level 2 drought response:
- Washing streets, gutters, sidewalks and driveways
- Ornamental uses, such as fountains and waterfalls
- Washing vehicles (cars, boats, etc.) at home
- Non-commercial washing or pressure washing
- Charity or non-commercial fund-raiser car washes