Towards a sustainable water future for Habersham County
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Increasing population and demand for water supplies raise questions about the sustainability of Habersham County’s water future. Growth projections by the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center indicate that the population of the county will double in the next 20 years and nearly quadruple in the next 50 years. Based on current per capita consumption, and accounting for water conservation measures not yet in place, the 50 year Comprehensive Water Development Plan for the county anticipates the demand for an additional 19.2 million gallons per day (MGD) (annual average) by 2055. Local surface water supplies are limited by Habersham’s location in the headwaters of two major river basins. Approximately 80% of the land area of the county drains to the Chattahoochee River and 20% to the Savannah River. Additional withdrawals from Chattahoochee basin sources are unlikely without flow augmentation (reservoirs) to meet existing downstream allocations and provide for wastewater assimilative capacity. Savannah basin sources are also problematic. Most wastewater infrastructure and population centers in the county are in the Chattahoochee basin. Interbasin transfers from the Savannah would be discharged, via public sewer or septic systems, to the Chattahoochee. Local municipal groundwater supplies are also limited by geology and should not be counted on to meet the expected future demand. Georgia’s Statewide Water Plan has implications for water supply planning in the county. Habersham remains in the Coosa-North Georgia Water Planning Region after petitioning the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for a change to the Savannah-Upper Ogeechee Water Planning Region. It remains to be seen how regional water planning will be coordinated with downstream users in the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District (MNGWPD) and other planning regions. Lack of available water supply will be a limiting factor for growth in Habersham County. Conservation and increased efficiency are imperatives if the county is to grow sustainably to meet the water demands of current and future residents.