Posted in Georgia History, GSU photo archive, Politics, Undogegorized by chamblee54 on March 23, 2016






Yesterday was #NationalWaterDay. PG celebrated by going to Decatur to talk about his water bill with the county. Water is taken for granted. You turn on the faucet, and (reasonably) clean, safe water comes out. It is only when the bill is too high that you think there is a problem.

Currently, Atlanta is getting plenty of rain. There is no immediate danger of running out of water. In 2007, there was a drought. There was speculation about running out of water. In the eight years since the drought, little has been done to prevent a future calamity. Atlanta is one sustained drought from becoming a ghost town. PG has written about this before.

#7gallonchallange was one of yesterday’s gimmicks. “For one day, attempt to limit water your usage to seven gallons a day, which is a high estimate of how much the average African uses.” There was a chart, showing how much water is used by typical activities. There were helpful suggestions, like “Don’t take a bath.” (The current custom of bathing everyday is fairly recent in western society.)

The “average African” (a strange concept for a diverse continent) does not just turn on a faucet to get water. In Kibera, an “informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, getting water is a chore. “Very few of the residents have running water. Every day, people have to carry a 20 liter jerrycan to a water vendor. Often, there are shortages, and the price goes up. The water is often contaminated. There are water mafias, which create artificial shortages to boost the price.”

“If the root of water problems in Kibera centered on price and supply it may be more manageable, but issues of water quality substantially complicate clean water delivery systems. Most water pipes in Kibera run above ground and are made of plastic (due to issues with theft of steel pipes), which are highly fragile and easily manipulated. These pipes will often crack or break (either accidentally due to traffic or intentionally by competitors), allowing sewage to seep into drinking water. Indeed, water sources that are generally clean can easily become contaminated without notice. This is reflected in public health data—infant mortality rates and bloody diarrheal infection rates in Kibera are more than three times the average of Nairobi as a whole (UNDP 2006).”

The feature below is a repost. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. “Unidentified Georgia Tech football player, Atlanta, Georgia, April 1938.”






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.






2 Responses

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  1. Bruce Henry said, on March 24, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    As you noted, the problem with many water systems is the piping. I’ve been to many places where the source was pristine, but by the time it got to the customer it was contaminated because of the poor piping. These systems also lose pressure frequently which allows contaminants to enter the system, usually in the form of raw sewage which is discharged to the nearest ditch where the water pipes often lay.

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