Agencies Try Social Tools To Discuss Atlanta Water | WABE 90.1 FM

Agencies Try Social Tools To Discuss Atlanta Water

Aug 1, 2017

We've gotten a lot of rain this summer, but there are still rules about using water in Atlanta because of the drought that -- until recently -- was pretty bad. So some water agencies are experimenting with new ways to let people know what's going on.

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Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted a Facebook Live event on the water level at Lake Lanier.

“We had received a lot of queries about the lake levels at Lake Lanier, and so we thought it would be a good first use of [Facebook Live],” said Col. James DeLapp, district commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, which manages Lanier.

DeLapp said he would definitely use Facebook Live again. 

Lake Lanier isn’t only a weekend getaway, it’s also the source of most of metro Atlanta's drinking water. Though the drought has cleared up in Georgia, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the outlook at this point is for it to stay that way, the state's water restrictions are still in place in metro Atlanta counties that rely on Lanier.

The rainy summer has helped; the levels at the lake have come up about 5 feet since the worst of the drought, but it’s still not full. And the reservoir fills slowly because it's fed by relatively small streams.

‘Having A Conversation’

Managing a drought can be hard. Convincing people there’s a good reason for drought response restrictions, even though it’s been pouring and lawns are green, is a whole other challenge, said Kathy Nguyen, water resource manager at Cobb County Water System.

This summer, she started experimenting with the app, NextDoor, to explain water use rules this summer.

“We've been using our social media, right, we’ve been out there,” she said. “We maybe get a comment, or a question. But when we go on NextDoor, it’s like we’re personally having a conversation with our citizens, and they respond that way.”

They respond to each other, too. And she said nuanced conversations have come up about where Cobb’s water comes from.

Screenshot of one of Kathy Nguyen's posts on NextDoor for the Cobb County Water System.
Credit Kathy Nguyen / Cobb County Water System

“You expect the questions,” she said. “I was surprised at how many people wanted to talk about actual lake management.”

NextDoor has had an effect, Nguyen said. Cobb has handed out fewer violations this drought than it has at this point in other droughts.  

“Normally, we would have so many violations. We'd be into the 2, 3, 400 violations. We are only at 120 violations. And a lot of those happened before we got on NextDoor,” she said.