Declaring that "Georgia is out of time," Gov. Sonny Perdue vowed to sue the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure more water is kept in Lake Lanier, Atlanta's main source of drinking water, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The impending lawsuit is the latest battle in the water wars that have erupted in the normally moist Southeast, which is in the midst of an historic drought.
Georgia is far from the only state affected by the drought. For months, Alabama has been ground zero for the worst of the drought, and the "exceptional drought" designation -- the nation's most severe -- has fingers into seven states: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Carolina and Virginia. Less-severe drought extends outward from there as far as Arkansas, Illinois and Missouri to the West, Florida to the South, and Pennsylvania to the North.
Georgia's call for more water brings it into conflict with other interests -- including endangered mussels and old power plants, which -- unlike modern plants -- use huge volumes of water to cool condensers, killing fish and other aquatic life in the process. Georgia's Congressional delegation is seeking an exemption from the Endangered Species Act, so that additional water can be held back for human uses, at the expense of mussels. Many species of native North American mussels are critically endangered because of disruptions to water flow in streams and pollution.
Atlanta may also impose the most strict restrictions on commercial and industrial users of water seen anywhere in the United States in years, if not decades.
C. Ronald Carroll, director of science for the River Basin Center at the University of Georgia's Odum School of Ecology, argued in an op-ed in the Journal-Constitution today that we face a sort-of reckoning for a string of short-sighted decisions about water use that were made without anticipating drought conditions. For that reason, he said, people living in the Southeast and other drought-plagued regions should not be allowed to sacrifice stream wildlife before they sacrifice themselves -- and more importantly, plan better for the future.
"We have endangered species because we have a legacy of being poor stewards of the environment," he wrote. "We have allowed ourselves to be dominated by a 'tyranny of small decisions' that, when added up, create crises and panic responses."
Drought Photos from Across the Country submitted to The Daily Green
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