Three words have been on the dry lips of Haralson County residents this week.
“We need rain.”
The county’s water levels are at an historic low, with Haralson County Board of Commissioners Chairman issuing a local state of emergency banning the outdoor use of water except for personal gardens that provide edible food.
Car washes across the county have closed, with restaurants putting prayer requests for rain on their marquees. The Tallapoosa River, the main water source for the county, is at its lowest level in the past 100 years, Haralson County Water Authority Executive Director Charlie Walker said.
“We’ve had no significant rain in the past three months now,” Walker said. “The river is nine feet below normal, and we’re down a million gallons of water each day.”
The county is purchasing water from Alabama and pulling from several wells nearby, and met with the city of Temple and the Carroll County Water Authority on Monday to see if additional connections can be made.
On Monday morning, though, the water authority found a sliver of good news, with the river above the inlets at the county treatment plant, allowing the plant to pump and treat potable water for more than six hours.
“This is great news, but we are not clear of the situation,” said Brian Walker, chief of the Haralson County Emergency Management Agency. “We cleared a total of 46 debris blockages and got water to flow over the weekend, working until dark.”
The Haralson County Fire Department also deployed two crews to additional creeks and streams to continue clearing debris and dams to get water flowing through the river. Working with two chainsaws, pike poles, axes, ropes and other equipment, the crews worked over the weekend to get the waterway clear.
The authority’s goal for daily distribution from the water treatment plant would be to reduce consumption from 2.7 million gallons per day down to 1.9 million or 2 million gallons per day. To complete that goal, government agencies are calling on residents to conserve, conserve, conserve.
The city of Buchanan sent out a notice to its residents, serving as their first warning to conserve water. The letter states a second warning will come in the form of a $50 fine, with the third infraction resulting in the pulling of the resident’s water meter.
As for schools, Haralson County Superintendent Dr. Jerry Bell said officials are preparing for the possibility that three local schools could be out of water soon.
“Our employees and students are doing their part and conserving as much as they can,” Bell said. “We’re working on contingency plans to keep schools going without interruption if those three schools have to shut down operations for a day or two.”
Bell assured parents that restrooms and clean drinking water would be provided for students, with portable restrooms mentioned as a potential option.
Hill Top tank, which supplies water at Buchanan Primary, Buchanan Elementary and Haralson County Middle, was expected to run out Wednesday.
As for Bremen City Schools, Superintendent Dr. David Hicks said the schools are in “decent shape.”
“That could change, but there are no plans to dramatically alter normal operation of the schools now,” Hicks said. “Additionally, no alteration of school days is being considered at this time, as even if we hit critical shortage, shortening days or missing a few days would not substantially make a difference.”
According to the current drought level, the following will not be permitted:
• General outdoor watering for purposes of planting, managing or maintain ground cover, trees, shrubs, or other plants will not be permitted which includes automated sprinkler systems, both residential and commercial.
• Recognizing most plants, shrubs, etc. are on the end of their growing season thereby hand watering with a hose will not be permitted.
• Fundraising car washes will not be permitted.
Ways to conserve water during this time, according to the water authority, are:
• No outdoor watering of any kind except for livestock and household pets.
• Limit time when showering and bathing.
• Wash full loads of laundry.
• Hand wash dishes, try to use a one cooking pot method to limit the dishes needing washed.
• Try and use one bathroom for family needs, if you have multiple bathrooms.
• Fix any leaky plumbing.
• Recognizing most plants, shrubs, etc. are on the end of their growing season thereby hand watering with a hose will not be permitted. Fundraising car washes will not be permitted.