Some people think that the drought is over, and we can go back to wasting water. They are wrong.
From a water supply point of view, Atlanta is a terrible place for a city. 4 million people depend on the Chattahoochee River, an overgrown trout stream. If you look at a map of Georgia watersheds , you see what a small area is covered by the Chattahoochee.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the water is also claimed by Alabama and Florida. A nuclear power plant in Alabama uses enormous amounts of river water. The three states have been arguing in the courts over the water rights for years, and the courts have ruled against Georgia.
For decayeds decades, the developers in Metro Atlanta have built as though having a water supply was not an issue. With dozens of governments to choose from, if the developers are turned down in one jurisdiction, they merely go to another…or make another bribe campaign contribution, and another forest bites the dust.
In an era of tea parties and calls for small government, few have a plan for the water crisis. There are going to be no cheap solutions. Even if we were to have access to the Tennessee River ( a very big if), a pipeline to carry the water through the mountains to Lake Lanier is going to be very expensive. We will not get this money by cutting taxes to stimulate the economy.
Even without a water sharing agreement, we almost ran out in 2007. A severe drought cannot be predicted, and another one may start today. The nuclear plant in Alabama requires tremendous amounts of water, and was close to having to shut down.
Much of the rain in Georgia comes from the Gulf of Mexico. This Gulf is currently becoming an open air reservoir for crude oil. What will happen when the remaining sea water evaporates, and becomes rain? Will the water have a helping of crude oil derivatives? At least this water can be used in a nuclear power plant.
Rain water is held in a reservoir until it is needed. For metro Atlanta, this is Lake Lanier. A water reservoir is not like a bank account, where the money earns interest. Water in a reservoir shrinks over time…water on the surface evaporates. When there is a drought in August, with 100 degree temperatures every day, water usage increases, evaporation increases, and there is no fresh rainwater going into the lake. This is how a water problem becomes a crisis.
There are a few, common sense, ways to save water now. Just because we are not in a drought does not mean we need to start wasting water. The water we save now will (mostly) be waiting for us when ( not if) another drought starts.
When you brush your teeth, fill a cup of water up first. Use part of this to rinse your mouth, and use the rest to clean your brush.
If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.
Get a stopper for the bathroom sink. If you shave, save water in the sink to clean your razor.
Keep a jug of water in the fridge if you like cold water. Don’t let the water run until it gets cold.
Take a “navy shower”. Get wet, turn the water off , lather up, turn the water back on, rinse.
Only run dishwashers and washing machines when they are full.
There are many, many more ways to save water. The less we use now, the longer our reserves will last. The water shortage will never be over in Atlanta.
Pictures from The Library of Congress. This is a repost.