This is getting real serious, and appears to be another struggle between the needs of the environment and human needs.
October 22, 2007
Atlanta Shudders at Prospect of Empty Faucets
By SHAILA DEWAN and BRENDA GOODMAN
ATLANTA, Oct. 22 — For more than five months, the lake that provides drinking water to almost five million people here has been draining away in a withering drought.
Sandy beaches have expanded into flats of orange mud. Tree stumps not seen in half a century have resurfaced. Scientists have warned of impending disaster.
And life has, for the most part, gone on just as before.
The response to the worst drought on record in the Southeast has unfolded in ultra-slow motion. All summer, more than a year after the drought began, fountains blithely sprayed, football fields were watered, prisoners got two showers a day and Coca-Cola’s bottling plants chugged along at full strength. In early October, on an 81-degree day, an outdoor theme park began to manufacture what was intended to be a 1.2-million gallon mountain of snow.
In late September, with Lake Lanier forecast to dip into the dregs of “dead storage” in less than four months, the state imposed a ban on outdoor water use. Gov. Sonny Perdue declared October “Take a Shorter Shower Month.”
On Saturday, he declared a state of emergency for more than half the state and asked for federal assistance, though the state has not yet restricted indoor water use or cut back on major commercial and industrial users, a step that could cause a significant loss of jobs.
These last-minute measures belie a history of inaction in Georgia and across the South when it comes to managing and conserving water, even in the face of rapid growth. Between 1990 and 2000, Georgia’s water use increased by 30 percent. But the state has not yet come up with an estimate of how much water is available during periods of normal rainfall, much less a plan to handle the worst-case scenario of dry faucets.