updated 10/24/2007 9:02:31 PM ET 2007-10-25T01:02:31

Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday banned the washing of state vehicles and ordered inmates to take one quick shower a day as part of an effort to reduce water use in the drought-stricken state.

Standing on the banks of a dwindling lake, Perdue ordered state agencies to reduce their water consumption by 10 to 15 percent as the state struggles with one of the worst droughts in its history.

The governor's order also bans the installation of new landscaping and power-washing state buildings. It also requires employees to probe state buildings for leaks.

"That means inmates, one quick shower. Fire trucks going unwashed. Entire departments using paper plates at least once a week," he said. "These are the kinds of innovative, creative things we can all do to conserve."

The day before, Perdue ordered public water providers in 61 Georgia counties to cut usage by 10 percent. That order leaves it up to each system to decide how to restrict water, and exempts agricultural users.

Those reductions are to be in place by Nov. 1, and the state Environmental Protection Division will impose fines on those who don't comply.

Almost a third of the Southeast is covered by an "exceptional" drought — the worst drought category. The Atlanta area, with a population of 5 million, is in the middle of the affected region.

Down to 80-day supply
With a dry winter in the forecast and less than 80 days of stored water left in Lake Lanier, the north Georgia reservoir that supplies water to about 3 million residents, the state has already ordered restrictions and Perdue has warned of more.

State climate experts say the drought is so severe, one like it typically develops only once in 100 years.

Georgia last week sued the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages regional water resources, demanding it send less water from Georgia lakes downstream to Florida and Alabama. The governor has also asked President Bush to declare the drought-stricken region a federal disaster area and order that the release of Georgia water be reduced.

A disaster declaration would be an unusual move by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which said the last time the federal government made such a declaration for a drought was in 1977.

Perdue said Wednesday's order is meant to show the federal government that the state is taking action to conserve water.

"We are further putting pressure on federal agencies by illustrating that Georgia is taking every possible step to conserve water," the governor said.

Elsewhere in the South, rain fell across North Carolina, but forecasters say it won't be enough to alleviate dry conditions.

Although the rain helped replenish groundwater and increase stream flow, the region is about 10 inches below its average annual rainfall, said Scott Krentz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"It needs about 15 to 20 inches within two weeks, and that's pretty much unheard of," Krentz said. "We need a couple tropical-type systems to move inland."

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