Dry hydrants are non-pressurized pipe systems permanently installed in lakes, farm ponds, and streams that provide a ready means of a suction supply of water for rural fire departments. The pipes remain dry until a pump is connected; therefore, they will not freeze during the winter months. Dry hydrants are used for the development of alternate water sources for fire protection and road maintenance in rural counties without water mains.
An increasing number of Georgians are living and working in rural areas without water mains and beyond the protection of domestic fire hydrants. Rural fire departments must be prepared to deliver large volumes of water to a fire scene by tankers. The travel distance to a fill-up point becomes the critical element of the department's fire-fighting capability. In most rural counties, there are numerous fishponds, conservation lakes, farm irrigation ponds, and streams. With the institutionalization of the Dry Hydrant Assistance Program, these natural, unprocessed water resources are being developed as emergency sources of water for both fire fighting and rural road maintenance. With 50 percent of roadways in rural Georgia being maintained as gravel thoroughfares, water is the key ingredient for ensuring proper upkeep of these roads. Where dry hydrants have been installed, road maintenance time has been reduced by 50 percent and citizens traveling on well-compacted gravel roads receive 11-12 percent better fuel economy compared to poorly maintained or loose surfaced roads. Also rural volunteer fire departments have reduced fuel used by 45 percent and the improved fire fighting capability has reduced fire insurance premiums by as much as 49 percent. Through the Dry Hydrant Water Assistance delivery system, small towns are also being offered the opportunity to make better use of their limited storage facilities for drinking water.
The successful management of a fire at a lumber mill in Homer, Georgia, is an important achievement toward increasing program support. The planing mill in this small north Georgia town, located in a county with just over 10,000 residents, is the major employer in the area. When a fire broke out in the mill, the water pressure from the town's aging water system was not sufficient to fight the fire. Fortunately, a dry hydrant system had just been installed in the county, and, by combining the two water sources, a major economic disaster for the community was averted. It was a significant demonstration of the advantages of alternative water supply sources and provided great leverage for gaining support in other communities.