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What the hot, dry summer means for the Atlanta region

Posted on: Jul 29, 2016

This summer has certainly been sizzling. Temperatures have soared into the mid-90s, with too little rain to break the heat.

Indeed, most of North Georgia has been dry this spring and summer. But metro Atlanta’s water providers are prepared to manage through this cycle, thanks to strong regional planning and conservation efforts – which are more important than ever as the region’s population continues to grow.

Here’s a Q&A about what the hot, dry summer means for the Atlanta region.

Are we in a drought?

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, much of metro Atlanta is experiencing severe drought conditions. After a wet winter, rainfall amounts have dropped off. From March to June of this year, Atlanta received 9.87 inches of rain – nearly six inches less than the 30-year average for the same four-month period, according to the National Weather Service.

It’s important to note that dry periods are part of the normal weather cycle. We don’t know how long the current dry conditions may persist, so it’s critical that all of us use water wisely.

What regulations are in place to address the drought?

The 2010 Georgia Water Stewardship Act requires outdoor watering to be limited to the hours between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. to avoid the hottest part of the day when more evaporation occurs. These requirements are in place year-round.

Some outdoor watering is allowed at any time of day. The Water Stewardship Act includes a number of exceptions to the outdoor watering requirements, including the use of drip irrigation or soaker hoses and the irrigation of personal food gardens.

How do metro Atlanta water providers manage through dry periods?

Since its creation in 2001, the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District (Metro Water District) has implemented one of the most comprehensive regional water management plans in the country. Since then, water use has dropped by more than 10 percent, despite a population increase of one million.

Across 15 counties and 93 cities, our water providers have: offered rebate programs on new toilets that save nearly a billion gallons of water per year; implemented a multi-tiered conservation rate structure that encourages conservation; and adopted ordinances requiring all new drive-through car washes to recycle water, reducing water use per facility by 35 percent.

As a result of these efforts, 2050 water demand forecasts show that the region will use 25 percent less water in the future than was estimated as recently as 2009.

What can we all do to conserve water?

Metro Atlantans can save water by:

  • Using a rain gauge to determine how much it has rained over the week before watering outdoor plants.
  • Watering in several short sessions instead of one long session. This reduces runoff and allows water to infiltrate into soil and plant roots.
  • Only watering lawns when needed. More plants die from over-watering than under-watering.
  • Watering lawns and plants in the early morning and late evening.
  • Checking for leaks inside and outside and then fixing them.
  • Shortening showers and turning off water when shaving or brushing teeth.
  • Filling dishwashers and washing machines.  Make sure there is a full load every time.
  • Conduct an audit of irrigation systems to identify and repair any leaky sprinkler heads and ensure that water isn’t spraying onto driveways and sidewalks.

Learn more, and take a pledge to conserve water, at

Although we are permitted to water every day, it is not necessarily the best practice. Use the “step test” and visual inspection to determine if your plants and grass need to be watered.

The Step Test:

  • Place your foot firmly on your turf area and remove
  • Watch how quickly the turf springs up to cover your footprint
  • If the turf springs up in a few seconds, it is probably not in need of watering
  • If the footprint remains or the turf rises slowly, it is in need of a deep watering