There’s snow in the forecast, but most of Georgia is still in a drought. Thanks to the rain over the past few weeks, there are now no Georgia counties experiencing exceptional drought conditions, which are the worst category in the U.S. Drought Monitor’s scale.
Still, there are actually water use restrictions in place for all of metro Atlanta. But those rules are being followed unevenly.
In more than 50 Georgia counties lawn watering is limited to two days a week, ornamental fountains have to be turned off, and charity car washes are banned. In some places, including DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta, restaurants aren't supposed to bring water unless patrons ask for it.
“People need to be aware of their water use and be conservative in their water use,” said Gail Cowie, the watershed manager of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s water branch.
But many restaurants are still bringing water, like usual. Lillian Govus, the director of communications and community relations for Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management, said she tells restaurants not to when she goes to them.
“I'm totally the water police,” she said, laughing.
It's up to the state to impose water use rules, but it's up to local utilities, like Atlanta Watershed, to enforce them.
Govus said restaurants should know about the glass of water rule, because there's a note in their bills and the people who monitor grease disposal for the city tell them about it.
But there isn't really a "water police" making sure people follow the rules.
“We don't have the staffing for that,” she said. “We don't have personnel who can only be available during the drought times to do that.”
She said luckily we're out of heavy lawn-watering season, so that shouldn't be happening too much anyway. And the city is focusing on finding and repairing leaky pipes and busted water mains.
All the utilities in the driest areas are now required to tell the state what they're doing about the drought. The first of those reports is due next week.