Lake Lanier is back up to its full water level for the first time in two years. That’s good news for homeowners, fisheries, boaters and others dependent on the lake. But some worry Georgians will give up the few water restrictions they may be following now.
The North Georgia lake is now at 1,071 feet, known as full pool.
The lake’s level has a wide range of impacts. For example, when it’s high, boat ramps are fully operational. And it means the Chattahoochee River and other bodies of water downstream are properly fed with water.
A 2010 conservation law still bars some outdoor watering. But Roger Martin, the Chattahoochee River Warden in Columbus, says he’s not sure how many Georgians follow it.
“I know here in Columbus, I see very lenient enforcement," he said in an interview. "I think the water utilities are supposed to enforce, but you really don’t see much publicity about it. The last time there was a lot of publicity about it was when Gov. Perdue was in office and he did an outdoor watering ban [for some counties].”
While healthy spring rains have eased drought conditions in most of the state, experts say Georgia isn’t in the clear just yet.
State climatologist Bill Murphy is cautiously optimistic about recent and forecast precipitation levels in Georgia.
“We’re still going to have to wait and see as far as a slam dunk that we’re out of the drought completely," he said. "There’s still a waiting period involved because we really need to see how things such as groundwater and stream conditions -- are those really going to hold up over the next few weeks and a month or two ahead?”
Martin, the Chattahoochee River Warden, says drought no longer seems to totally recede as a problem here in Georgia.
"If you go back, we had a drought from 2002 to 2004," he said. "We had the 2006-to-2008 drought. Then we went back in in 2011 and 2012. It's just like it's becoming more frequent, and the duration is longer each time."
He added, "It's scary. It really is."
To him, that means state officials should do more to encourage wider use of low-flow toilets and other conservation measures.