Monday, October 22, 2007

Wither water?

Apparently, Atlanta woke up recently to the fact that it is in the grip of a very serious drought:

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.

But hey, it's caught those cats napping:

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.

But then, when the problem began to dawn on elected officials, they took drastic measures:

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.”

That kind of sacrifice just makes you tremble, doesn't it, boys and girls?

Now that Atlanta is just about out of freakin' water, it is time to assign blame. The governor? They mayor of Atlanta? Real estate developers? The citizens of Atlanta?

No, of course not. It's the mollusks fault:

[T]he state has engaged in interminable squabbles with its neighbors over dam releases and flow rates. The latest attempt at mediation with Alabama fell apart just last month. And Georgia officials insist that Atlanta would have plenty of water were it not for the Army Corps of Engineers, which they say has released more water from Lake Lanier than is necessary to protect three endangered species [two kinds of mussels and a sturgeon] downstream. Last week, Governor Perdue filed for an injunction against the Corps.

In other words, we are expected to give up more of our grandchildren's biological patrimony so the unbridled development of Atlanta can continue:

A realistic statewide plan, experts say, would tell developers that they cannot build if no water is available, and might have restricted some of the enormous growth in the Atlanta area over the last decade. Already, officials have little notion how to provide for a projected doubling of demand over the next 30 years. The ideas that have been floated [Spot thinks that was intended as a pun], including piping water from Tennessee or desalinating ocean water, will require hundreds of billions of dollars and painful decisions the state has been loathe to undertake.

One has to feel really bad for the plight of the champions of green grass:

Mary Kay Woodworth, executive director of the Metro Atlanta Landscape and Turf Association, said almost 14,000 workers in landscaping and other businesses that depend on planting and watering had lost their jobs.

“This is a precious natural resource and it has not been managed well,” Ms. Woodworth said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re in this situation today. The infrastructure was not in place for the development.”

Spot feels your pain, Mary Kay.

It's hard to know if Peak Oil or Peak Water will kill the sprawled Atlanta first. The latter is the title of a post at Across the Great Divide on projected water shortages in the West. Water has always been in short supply in the West, and now it is being exacerbated by climate change.

People in the Sunbelt like to make fun of the people in the Rust Belt. But you know what? You need water to make thing rust.

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