By John Schaffner

The Sandy Springs City Council heard some strong legislative proposals at its work session Nov. 13 from the city attorney and departments of Public Works and Community Development for imposing restrictions to deal with the current drought conditions and a future overtaxed water supply.

Among the issues brought before council by City Attorney Wendell Willard a full ban on all outside watering, a full ban on car washing at home or by commercial car wash establishments, and a full ban on private pressure washing.

Willard said the city does have the legal authority under its police powers to regulate the water usage and enforce such ordinances. He said the city can impose civil penalties but he does not recommend the city turn off anyone’s water, because it does not own the water system. The city purchases its water from the city of Atlanta and pays a 21 percent premium per gallon over what residents of Atlanta pay for the same water.

In terms of building and development conservation measures, staff recommended that the city mandate that all new construction be required to install low-flow fixtures, regulate the length hot water has to flow from the water heater to a shower by using circulation pumps, and require installation of waterless urinals in commercial buildings. They also recommended mandating the use of grey water systems in certain situations. The consensus of council was to do it.

Staff also recommended identifying entities that use 100,000 gallons of water per day and finding ways to work with them to reduce that usage, and also recommended mandating all new apartment and condo construction include sub meters for each unit. The consensus of council was to do it.

Council members were on the fence, however, over a recommended ordinance requiring that all new construction or renovations of existing construction be required to tap in the city sewer system rather than a septic tank.

The council members also weren’t sure about a proposed moratorium on new swimming pools and also possibly on all new construction of any type.

The consensus of the council members was that they want a level playing field, instead placing a larger burden on Sandy Springs residents and businesses than other face.

In response to Willard’s suggested water ban ordinances, Councilwoman Diane Fries and Mayor Eva Galambos shared a dislike for Sandy Springs doing anything to restrict its residents’ water usage that the city of Atlanta won’t do to its residents. The mayor also said she believes the residents of Sandy Springs already are dramatically cutting back voluntarily on their water usage and suggested a check of usage on the water bills from the city of Atlanta would show that.

Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins asked the city staff if they knew any other city where they don’t own the water system and they are enforcing stricter restrictions than those from whom they are getting their water. She said she has been getting responses from homeowner associations that are not putting out their fall plantings and restaurants that are not serving water to customers in order to reduce the water usage.

Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny said she agreed on not unduly restricting our Sandy Springs businesses, but she said, “We need to enforce the laws….We need to assume a leadership role.”

New District 1 Councilman Doug McGinnitie asked city staff if Sandy Springs, given its size, was to enforce these bans, “Will it change the flow line in any way?” The answer was probably not.

Councilman Rusty Paul wanted to know what the city can do to deal with problems such as leaky water meters at homes and businesses which cause a major waste of water resources. He said he has one at his house and has been unable to get the city of Atlanta to respond and fix it.

Some of the measures may be introduced at the Nov. 20 regular council meeting.