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Atlanta Water Consumption – Julia Kortrey

If you grew up in Georgia like I did, you may remember hot summers with only the small hope of going to a nearby pool to cool down because you could not play on your Slip n’ Slide or use your backyard pool due to the drought. Yet, as we grew up, it got worse: the drought from 2006-2009 turned Georgia into an image of cracked red clay and our neighboring states into mortal enemies. While some blamed global warming and others blamed the increased population, we soon realized that decades of warnings of crisis from officials and politicians were finally being realized. Still, until recently, there has been little progress in developing a sustainable plan.
Since Atlanta Region Metropolitan Planning Commission’s study in 1969 that revealed that crucial infrastructural changes must be before Atlanta reaches 3-5 million people, Georgia has made few, vain attempts in creating more reservoirs. These reservoirs would be key to holding enough water during droughts. But on top of infrastructural issues, Georgia has continued to lose it water battle with Alabama and Florida since they began fighting over Georgia’s main water source, Lake Sidney Lanier, in 1990. Although Lake Lanier is in Georgia, federal laws have continued to protect Alabama and Florida’s share of water, especially due to the endangered Fat Threeridge Mussels. But even with an 18% increase in population over the last ten years, Georgia has not found much sympathy.
These issues compounded, helped provide the worst drought in the South East in over a century. With no idea of when or if rain would be coming to the South East, extreme water restrictions were placed on residents and commercial companies, which forced Pike Nurseries’ to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. The tri-state battle persisted as former Governor Sonny Perdue prayed rain outside of the capitol (after it was already in the forecast). Although the drought eventually ended in June 2009, severe flooding only a few months later followed it, rescuing us from any drought in the shorterm. But finally, in June of 2010, Governor Perdue signed into law the Georgia Water Stewardship Act. The act works to increase conservation but ignores the two largest waters users—agriculture and electric utilities. David Kyler, director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast in St. Simons Island, deeply criticizes the law. Kyler warns, “for hidden political reasons we are severely restricting Georgia’s water conservation potential by giving a free pass to the major water users.” Nevertheless, Perdue managed to ride out the storm, never finalizing a tri-state deal.
Now, newly elected Governor Nathan Deal has inherited one of the greatest issues that the state of Georgia has ever faced. On March 17th, 2011 Governor Deal spoke to Georgia business executives about water and its economic impact: “hopefully in the not too distant future, we will have good news to report in that regard as well.” However, nothing tangible has come into being. And with a 2012 ultimatum from U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson—finalize a tri-state deal or lose access to Lake Lanier—Georgia has made one of its priorities to get this extended. There have been some strides though.
Deal has developed the Georgia Water Supply Evaluation program in order to help local communities tackle water supply needs. He has also proposed $300 million over four years to create and expand reservoirs and support water planning. Yet, the most important victory appears to becoming to a close as Deal claims that his negotiation team is headed toward an agreement with Alabama about the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa water basin. Reaching an agreement with Florida will prove much more difficult since they have the last leg of the Chattahoochee River.
The solution to maintaining water security depends greatly on Governor Deal’s success in the next few years. While his plans are only rhetoric, he has only been in office for a few months. Still, his current approach does not hold commercial enterprises to the same or comparable standards as it does for residents. But most importantly, the livelihood of Georgia depends on his ability to become sustainable and adopt a tri-state agreement with Alabama and Florida.

Sources:
http://climatesummit.gatech.edu/presentations/stooksbury.pdf
http://books.google.com/books?id=ow8AAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA169&dq=atlanta+magazine+june+2008&hl=en&ei=WdyGTf6qOceUtwe2_dTABA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=atlanta%20magazine%20june%202008&f=false (Atlanta Magazine June 2008)
http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9M3PLCG0.htm
http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/perdue-backs-water-conservation-290093.html
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2008/2008-02-05-093.html
http://www.ajc.com/opinion/pro-con-will-the-373183.html
http://www.usatoday.com/weather/news/2007-10-19-drought_N.htm
http://www.waterwebster.com/FloridaAlabamaGeorgia.htm
http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/deal-urges-progress-on-880952.html
http://www.albanyherald.com/home/headlines/Gov_Perdues_legacy_is_a_Republican_state_112488199.html
Photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhursey/2257979541/ Lake Lanier during drought
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21767716/ns/weather/ Purdue prays for rain
http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/?n=flood_awareness_flooding flooding in Atlanta

Image source: http://www.stephenrahn.com/blog/archives/1895.

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