Tensions were high as business and civic leaders gathered for the Georgia Water Solutions Forum at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Officials face hard choices and no clear solutions to the serious drought that is plaguing the Southeast.
As one of the region's fastest growing, and biggest, cities, Atlanta is at the eye of the water crisis storm. State Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan), who chairs the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, pointed out that many in the region view Atlanta as "the enemy" when it comes to water use. And state law prohibits Atlanta from piping in water from outside the 16-county water planning district.
If predictions are correct, and the region gets another year like 2007 (which is on track to beat 1954 for Atlanta's driest year on record), a serious shortage will result. Kathryn "Kit" Dunlap, chair of metro Atlanta's water district and head of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said "We don't have enough in place right now to face that [possibility]. I don't think we can conserve our way out of another year of a drought, and we can't obviously build reservoirs by then."
Lawmakers are calling for increased conservation, including tax incentives for water-saving plumbing fixtures and appliances, as well as possibly desalination of sea water. The good news is three-quarters of North Georgia communities and industries are meeting the state's required 10 percent cut in wintertime water use.
In some ways, the Southeast's water woes are reminiscent of California's power shortages and rolling brownouts of a few years ago. Many wanted to spur rapid deployment of new fossil fuel power plants, something environmentalists thought the state's poor air quality could not afford. Instead, the state focused its efforts on ramping up energy conservation through incentives and education, and the power shortage was solved faster than almost anyone's expectations.
Instead of trying to desalinate or truck in water, both of which are extremely energy intensive, and release huge amounts of carbon emissions, the Southeast may do well to learn from California, and give conservation a real chance. Every drop saved means a gallon of water for tomorrow.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.