BRADENTON, Fla. - With a pervasive drought across much of the state, Georgia has approved the first round of projects to be financed with state-issued bonds that will help build reservoirs and other drinking water projects.

Two reservoirs are among eight water supply projects approved by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority this week that will receive $100 million of assistance as part of the governor's water supply program.

The program grew out of a severe drought in 2008, and subsequently Gov. Nathan Deal committed $300 million to the program from the sale of bonds.

Today, three-quarters of Georgia is suffering from drought in levels described as ranging from severe to exceptional by the U.S. Drought Monitor operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Georgia has proactively sought solutions to the water supply issue, including developing new water sources and promoting water conservation," said GEFA executive director Kevin Clark. "By ensuring adequate supply through both new water sources and conservation, Georgia's water needs can be met."

Earlier this year, the GEFA took applications for the first round of funding in the water supply program. The agency received 15 responses from communities seeking $195.6 million - nearly double the amount of state funds initially available.

Two of the largest applications approved in the first round of financing in the program were for 40-year, low-interest loans related to reservoir projects.

Newton County was allocated a $21 million loan toward construction of a 1,242-acre reservoir to store water on Bear Creek. The county is designing a $62.6 million reservoir.

Oconee and Walton counties received two loans consisting of $20 million and $12 million toward construction of a $90.9 million, 1,400-acre reservoir in Walton County.

Smaller loans were approved for three other counties with various projects, including enhancements to an existing reservoir, and construction of new wells and water treatment facilities.

The GEFA expects to seek additional applications from local governments for the program in January 2013 and January 2014, pending legislative appropriations and bond sales.

Some of the state's general obligation bonds supporting the program were issued earlier this year, and proceeds are being funneled through various state agencies. Another $20.7 million of bonds are expected to be sold in November, according to officials.

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