By Amy Wenk

After 18 months of discussion, city officials have drafted a trio of strategies to promote water conservation in Sandy Springs. The anticipated recommendations were heard at the City Council’s April 21 meeting and seemed to please the board.

“We can be the poster child for water conservation,” Mayor Eva Galambos said. “This is progress.”

She and the council instigated the issue in November 2007 when they asked Planning Commission Chairman Lee Duncan to head a 10-member group of engineers, builders and developers. The committee was charged with preparing a proposal to encourage conservation through incentives and community outreach.

Multiple conversations and work sessions ensued, but the result, Duncan said, is “a very, very effective program I think you are going to be proud to adopt.”

The first component is a Web site devoted to water conservation. The page will serve as an online resource for the city’s efforts, as well as provide links to regional organizations like the state Environmental Protection Division.

In addition, the site will publicize Sandy Springs’ work with the city of Atlanta to provide free water conservation kits to residents.

The second element is a three-tiered set of incentives that will reduce building permit fees for business or home owners who use a retrofit or new technology to conserve water.

On the basic level, a bronze conservation turtle will be awarded for the use of lower-flow fixtures and water-conserving landscaping.

A silver turtle will go to a property owner who completes additional measures, such as limiting turf areas, protecting vegetation and adding pervious surfaces. The permit fee is reduced 30 percent at this level. For example, a builder of a new single-family home with 2,400 square feet would pay $973 instead of $1,390.

To receive the gold turtle, a person must complete the requirements at the first two levels and apply two of the following systems: graywater reuse, rainwater collection or air-conditioning condensate recirculators. The permit fee then is reduced 50 percent.

“What we are proposing to you is to take the first six months and see what the reception is within the building and development community,” said Chris Miller, the deputy director of community development, “to see if we properly pegged the percentages to what the costs are associated with these additional technologies.”

The third strategy is an ordinance that gives the city the right to enforce state-mandated restrictions during droughts. At present, the city of Atlanta, which has no power in Sandy Springs, is the only municipality that can cite drought violations.

City staff will present a resolution enacting the strategies in June, Miller said.