Billy Vaughn is back at the Oconee Enterprise, and he writes an interesting column today in the business section about whether we can have business growth without water. Of course we can't. But the real question is this: can we have business growth and still reduce our use of water? The drought will (eventually) go away, but hopefully the memories of our local governments will be a bit longer. Some painless solutions to using less water include low flow faucets, toilets that use less water per flush, building to Earthcraft standards, etc.
So the answer, of course, is yes, we can continue to grow while using less water. Lots of other communities do it. We have just been taking this resource for granted, and like many other infrastructure issues locally, regionally, and nationally not planning or conserving effectively.
The real issue of water use in Oconee and other counties in NEGA that has to be considered is how to fund new reservoirs assuming our future involves less use per person or structure. The old formula (in very simple terms) involves issuing bonds based on future usage rates, which are closely tied to residential and business growth. Even assuming moderate growth in Oconee, are we essentially requiring aggressive growth by guaranteeing our bonds with projected revenues from usage growth? In the face of what are likely semi-permanent water bans, -- and at minimum strong consumer bias against excessive water use, it doesn't seem wise. Are the days of water as a revenue stream over? We probably need to consider some new ways to fund our water sources.