Oconee County officials discuss wastewater expansion

Lawyers in Athens GA

While an immediate need for expansion isn’t necessary, Oconee County officials are thinking ahead when it comes to water rights and feel that in order to keep up with the county’s rapid growth rate, they have an urgent need to expand its wastewater treatment operations immediately – for the future.

Oconee County commissioners met and discussed the topic in a day-long meeting last week.

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According to an article in the Athens Banner-Herald, Oconee’s raw-water rights at the Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County – 7 million gallons a day – should meet water demands until 2040 or 2045.

Another 15 million gallons a day of raw water could come from the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir, which Oconee County’s government co-owns with Walton County.

Residents in Oconee County have reportedly been conserving water better since 2007, when there was a drought. The ABH reports that per-capita water use in the county has dropped sharply.

“The county will need to find a way to get more treated water soon, though — an additional 1 to 2 million gallons a day by 2020 … The county is now in talks to buy treated water from Barrow and Jackson counties, said Wayne Haynie, Oconee County’s utilities director,” the article reads.

Oconee County’s population grew from 7,915 in 1970 to 32,808 in 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau records. If that pace continues through 2050, Oconee’s population would be about 130,000.

A wastewater treatment plant on Calls Creek near Watkinsville is already undergoing an expansion, but according to the article, the county will eventually need to build one or two more plants to keep up with demand.

Some people in the county have suggested contracting with Athens-Clarke County, which reportedly has more than enough unused capacity in its wastewater treatment plants.

No overall cost figures were mentioned in the meeting, but according to planners who spoke, putting dollar estimates on the plans is the next step.