Many residents will likely water their lawns and plants regularly as warmer temperatures become the norm.
Columbia County Water Utility Director Billy Clayton said the water system is ready to handle the extra flow.
“We’re in excellent shape,” Clayton said.
The state recently granted permits for upgrades to the Jim Blanchard Water Treatment Plant on Point Comfort Road. Combined with the Clark’s Hill Water Treatment Plant, the county is capable of producing 53.9 million gallons of drinking water per day, Clayton said.
“That should last Columbia County for a while,” Clayton said, adding that the expansion was designed for many years of future growth. “I’ve never seen a day’s (water use) even approach that.”
In the winter months, Clayton said residents typically use 12-13 million gallons per day. When temperatures rise and residents begin outdoor watering, usage rises to about 25 million gallons. During times of drought when rain is scarce and temperatures are high, the plants produce nearly 30 millions gallons per day.
Despite recent rains and the county’s large capacity, a state-mandated water conservation plan restricts when residents can water outdoors.
The guidelines, implemented last summer, prohibit outdoor watering from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Residents can water any other time of day on any day of the week.
“All they’ve got to remember is to not (water) in the middle of the day,” Clayton said.
Most residents comply, and Clayton encourages them to be mindful of water usage by not letting water run unnecessarily and trying simple changes, such as sweeping instead of washing driveways and porches.
Midday outdoor watering isn’t a smart technique, Clayton said, because much of the water quickly evaporates or dries in the wind.
“It is just not the time for watering,” Clayton said.
The biggest offenders to midday watering are commercial establishments and subdivision entrances, where the sprinklers haven’t been programmed for the allowed times. Clayton recommends that residents adjust their sprinkler system timers to avoid midday watering.
The state plan is designed to conserve water, and not just in times of drought.
“They are teaching us to at least get the best bang for our buck and get the most use out of the water,” Clayton said.