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Mandatory water use restrictions start April 7

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By The Staff

The Suwannee River Water Management District governing board today issued the agency's first-ever Phase II Water Shortage Order which includes mandatory water-use restrictions that will become effective Districtwide on April 7.

The order includes restrictions, and some exemptions, for all water-use categories including residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural.

Between now and April 7, District staff will meet with city and county officials to coordinate implementation and enforcement guidelines. They also will meet with commercial and industrial interests to explain the order and to solicit input, as they did with agricultural producers in late December.

The unprecedented action was taken in response to extremely low groundwater levels experienced throughout the 15-county region during the current drought, coupled with predictions that the drought will intensify over the next several months.

"Even before the mandatory restrictions go into effect, we urge all citizens to continue to voluntarily conserve water," said David Still, District deputy executive director.

The District is suffering its eighth-driest 24-month period since 1932, with a rainfall deficit of 28.7 inches.

Forty-nine wells set new December lows and 17 wells set new historic lows. Twenty-three emergency permits for dry wells were issued in December, for a total of 157 issued between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2007.

Although recent heavy rains in Georgia have led to slight increases in some local river levels, the Suwannee at Branford is still below the 10th percentile, and the Santa Fe River near Fort White is about an inch below its former historic low. (The unofficial level on Jan. 8 was 20.93 feet above mean sea level; the historic low was 21.02 feet, recorded in November 2002.)

A copy of the Phase II Water Shortage Order is available at www.mysuwanneeriver.com.