Phil Smith, Deborah Smith, Scott Nelson, Lamar Paris, and Sandy Stephens
Phil Smith, Deborah Smith, Scott Nelson, Lamar Paris, and Sandy Stephens

Union County Courthouse hosts Water Conservation Awareness meeting in Blairsville, Georgia

December 11, 2007 - Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris recently hosted a Water Conservation Public Awareness Meeting at the Union County Courthouse. Deborah and Phil Smith headlined the presentation with an interesting and informative slide show. Deborah talked about ways to save water, not just during extreme drought conditions, but as a way of life. Ace Hardware's Scott Nelson, Home Depot's Appliance Specialist Sandy Stevens, and Commissioner Lamar Paris also participated in the program. Blairsville's Mayor Conley and representatives from Coosa Water were on hand to answer questions.

The Smiths worked in India before moving to Blairsville, Georgia in August of 2007. They are used to a limited water supply due to tight water restrictions imposed by public utilities. Deborah explained, "In India the water is on just a few hours every day. You have to learn to make do. People flush toilets with only a cup of water."

Deborah says, "The earth is a holy place. It is our responsibility to be good stewards." She went on to compare the current draught situation in the southeastern United States to the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930's. "People didn't notice the cumulative effects until it was too late. 500,000 people were left homeless because of lack of water and terrible dust storms. The whole disaster might have been prevented if people had practiced simple water conservation techniques."

She continued, "This is really a global problem. The Amazon Rain Forest is suffering, too. Other countries are experiencing droughts like never before. But back to Union County - rainfall averages are usually between 56 and 78 inches a year in this part of the state. In 2004 Union County received 56.59 inches of rain. In 2005 we received 54.73 inches. In 2006 we received 45.93 inches. In 2007 we have received only 33.48 inches as of Tuesday, December 11. Now, even if we get significant rainfall, it may not be enough to keep the trees from dying."

Deborah goes on to say, "There are issues with water management at the State level but tonight we will stick to how each of us can conserve water at home."

There are many ways to reduce water consumption. Replace old inefficient toilets with the new 1.6 gallon per flush toilets. Fix leaky toilets and faucets. Consider not flushing after urination. Wear clothes more times and wash linens less often. Replace old shower heads with newer water saving models. Take Navy showers (get wet, turn the water off. Soap up. Turn the water back on and rinse). Shower less often and consider standing in a basin or large dish pan to catch excess (use this water to flush toilets or to water plants). Use faucet aerators and flow restrictors. Purchase water efficient dishwashers and washing machines. Don't let water run while shaving or brushing teeth. Quit using the kitchen disposal and start a compost pile.

Conserve water because it is the right thing to do. Don't waste water just because someone else is footing the bill, such as when you are staying at a hotel. Remember that every drop counts and you can make a difference. Deborah ended her part of the presentation with a plea to the citizens of Union County , "Let's all conserve water before rationing is the only option."

Scott Nelson was next with ideas for conserving water in the landscape and nursery. He advised collecting rain water in barrels as a secondary source for watering plants and gardens. Nelson also talked about different grasses that require less water. He advised against purchasing "genetic altered grasses" solely as a means for conserving water and warned everyone about advertisers that make outrageous claims. "We need to conserve water in our daily lives but we're not going to do it by planting grass."

Sandy Stevens had various products on display. He said, "We are starting to see a lot more eco-friendly products on the market such as water saving flush valves and new types of supply lines that shut off if water pressure increases above a certain level. We really must try harder to conserve our water."

Commissioner Paris wrapped up the meeting with a few examples of how he is experimenting with water saving techniques at home. "I take Navy showers all the time now. I tried standing in a wash tub and using the water I caught to flush the toilet. My wife didn't know what to think at first but she was happy when the water bill went way down."