Georgia Gov. Perdue proposes water-saving measures

ATLANTA — Gov. Sonny Perdue said Wednesday that the state should require low-flow faucets, toilets and other water-saving devices in all new buildings starting in 2012.

Perdue also said he'll call for separate water meters on all units at new apartment complexes and new standards for industrial cooling towers. He said legislation laying out the details will be filed Thursday, and that the bill would also include new incentives for retrofitting old buildings to save water across the state.

Those incentives, which basically amount to lower interest state loans and a better shot at government grants, also will give local communities another reason to expand reservoirs — or build new ones.

New reservoirs have been contemplated to help metro Atlanta, in particular, deal with a water shortage. But just where those reservoirs will be, and whether any will tap Middle Georgia water supplies for metro Atlanta's benefit, remain to be seen.

"Saying where reservoirs would be would be jumping to a conclusion," said state Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, who will be heavily involved with this legislative effort as chairman of the Senate's Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment and the bill's sponsor in the Senate.

The bill also calls for new standards for water loss and leak detection in major public water systems. Those leaks spew water into the ground unused, and the idea is to get a better handle on how much water is lost, and where, so those areas can be targeted, Perdue said.

The governor's bill will have to work its way through both the House and Senate before taking effect.

It's based on recommendations from a large task force the governor convened last year, and it comes largely in response to a federal judge's decree that metro Atlanta will face severely restricted access to one of its main water supplies, Lake Lanier, if the state can't strike a new water-sharing deal with Florida and Alabama.

Perdue said Wednesday that he remains optimistic about ongoing negotiations with those states. He said earlier this year that he expects to strike a deal in the coming months, and possibly in time for ratification during this legislative session. Perdue said the new building codes would be delayed until July 2012 to give the industry time to adapt. It would require low-flow toilets, which generally use about half the water that regular toilets do, as well as low-flow faucets and shower heads.

While retrofitting of current homes and buildings would not be required, it would be encouraged through incentives that could lead to larger state grants for communities that implement retrofitting programs, the governor said.

Perdue said a full 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ban on outdoor watering, which has been proposed by a legislator from the Columbus area, is not contemplated in his bill.

"We'll see if that flows on its own," he said of the proposal.

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