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Atlanta: It’s dry here (update)
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dale's out in San Diego braving fires and I'm here in Atlanta drying up. We have an extreme drought situation here that has everyone deeply concerned. Lake Lanier, a man-made reservior which serves most of Atlanta, is drying up.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that Lake Lanier, the city's reservoir, may run out of clean water in about 110 days. The area has received just 25 inches (64 centimeters) of rain this year, half the usual amount. The scarcity of tropical systems is one reason, said Dan Dixon, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Miami.
The AJC reports:
The corps estimates Lanier has 120 days of readily available drinking water left. The state puts the count at only 80 days. Pumping out water from the bottom of the lake could extend supplies an additional five to six months, but it would be difficult and expensive to retrieve and treat that water.
A couple of points: the estimate given here has been revised (I heard it reported on a radio news report yesterday) to about 280+ days of water. I think that is based on the point the AJC brings out about "pumping water from the bottom of the lake". Still not much but certainly better than 110 days. And Dixon is right, these mild tropical storm/hurricane seasons have definitely cut down on the annual rainfall we get. The old pattern I remember so well, the 3pm thunderstorm, hasn't been seen in these parts for quite some time. The drought is the worst since 1922.

Where I am, everyone is conscious of the problem and it is indeed a topic of conversation whenever folks meet. My latest trip to the dentist found me and the receptionist talking about family water conservation methods: a full dishwasher or clothes washer before turning them on; turning the tap on and off when brushing teeth vs. letting it run continually, etc. I haven't watered my lawn in 2 months, nor has anyone else.

Businesses are also looking at ways and means to conserve water. But when you have a MSA of about 5 million people, while helpful, the minimal demand is such that the water level will continue to drop at Lake Lanier regardless of the conservation attempts.

What can government do? Not much, except ban and enforce in this case. However, there is an ongoing fight among state governments about the required release of water from Lake Lanier (and this isn't a new fight, but a fight that has been ongoing for decades).
A week ago Perdue, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist were publicly sparring over rights to Lanier, which provides most of metro Atlanta's drinking water. The water also supports downstream communities and industry, including a large nuclear power plant in southeast Alabama. And it is the lifeblood of Apalachicola Bay's seafood industry and federally protected mussel species.

Georgia has been pressing federal officials to temporarily lift requirements of the Endangered Species Act and reduce the amount of water flowing out of the lake. Alabama and Florida want the corps to keep sending more than a billion gallons a day out of Lanier.

Georgia depicts the dispute as a choice between people and mussels. That angers Riley and Crist, who both say Georgia is ignoring Lanier's crucial role in their economies.
While Christ and Riley have a point about the down-stream economies, the law that mandates the flow out of Lake Lanier is indeed the "Endagered Species Act" which, in this case, requires a minimal flow specifically because of an endangered downstream mollusk. What Perdue is requesting is a temporary stay on that requirement of sending a billion gallons a day down river in order to serve the Atlanta metro area. Both sides obviously have valid concerns which is why no settlement is imminent and the federal government is becoming involved.

Meanwhile, I and I'm sure others, will be doing out little bit to try and conserve what we have:
Every metro Atlantan uses about 70 gallons of water per day. That could be cut to about 45 gallons through in-home conservation efforts, the coalition said.
In the meantime, enjoy that cool drink of water you have today, and think of the parched folks in Atlanta while you're imbibing. I'm certainly beginning to understand why many consider water to be the new oil.

UPDATE: In my rush to put something up this morning before heading out into this parched land, I quickly brushed aside possible government reactions to this by saying government was pretty much left to "ban and enforce". Our good friend Warren Meyer of Coyote Blog left a comment saying there's also one other action government can take - a price increase:
Since the government probably owns all the municipal water supplies, how about "raise the price?" Further, how about continuing, in the future, to take some shot at matching price to available supply, so that some mechanism other than command and control rationing can be used as a matching technique for supply and demand. This "price" thingie is something that has been used successfully to manage resources in short supply in many other commodity groups.

Water and the price mechanism: In Arizona; In Georgia.
Certainly an alternative way of rationing water, and one that might be more effective than any other method.
 
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If they start pumping from the bottom, start holding your breath when you shower.

Bloomington IL had to do that same thing a long while back (Hell, I was in gradeshool still I think), and the smell from that water would about make you puke. The stench of algae would also then HANG on you all day. Was almost better to NOT bathe. You smelled better.
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Sounds like global warming to me.

Try throwing virgins into a volcano. I’ve heard that works.

And buy shares in the bottled water companies.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Try throwing virgins into a volcano
No wonder I can’t find any...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Scott Jacobs writes:
No wonder I can’t find any...
I heard there was a handful left in a convent in Minnesota, but they’re going fast.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
"What can government do? Not much"

Wellllll....they do have reverse osmosis water purifiers that the military uses. You can make from 600 to 3,000 gph of potable drinking water from salt water from one unit....and you do have a big salty drinky to your right. I’m sure they couldn’t fill your lake back up but getting potable H2O wouldn’t be a problem if it got that bad. I’m just sayin’.
 
Written By: markm
URL: http://
I heard there was a handful left in a convent in Minnesota, but they’re going fast.
Have you seen the chicks in Minnesota?

*shudders*

There’s a reason they’re virgins, dude...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Jacobs has apparently never been to Philadelphia.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Been to Pittsburg. Another place that won’t be on my world tour to find a bride.
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Hey, you keep diggin on Minni-soda and MK is going to show up and start dronning on and on about their defense of individual freedoms and how Mr Smith should be running this country and how many languages Enoch Powell can speak and then he throws up all over the Cuba Libras how many great statesmen they’ve contributed even though he’s never been there and doesn’t live there.

I need to check and see if Minn is a red-state all over, that’ll determine his willingess to defend it.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
You read what MK posts?

See, there’s yer problem right there... :)
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
I blame BOOO000OSH!

and the JOOOOOOOOS!
 
Written By: A fine scotch
URL: http://
Well, yes. There’s always room to blame the jews.

*rolls his eyes*

Where are you people coming from?
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
We had a water shortage in Maryland a couple of years ago, with statewide restrictions on use even for those on wells. While the restrictions were in place I asked a couple of state politicians what plans they were making to cope with the inevitable future water shortages, noting that population increases would increase the demand on existing water resources, and that another drought was a mathematical certainty. After the usual momentary blank stare and frozen smile as mental processes crashed and rebooted, a new subject was broached.
I am reassured, however, by the fact that politicians at all levels are proactive about greenhouse gasses and energy independence. We will need all the tanker capacity saved by not importing oil for importing water.
I am sure the politicians in Georgia are doing better at planning.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Man, when I was flying out of Gwinnett County, I had my Private Pilot checkride cancelled for weather eleven times in a row.

If not for me trying to win that ticket, the drought would have turned up six years ago.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Scott,

I thought the spelling of both Bush and Jews would be clue to the sarcasm inherent in the comment.

A number of folks seem to love to blame the President for everything, so I figured Atlanta’s drought should be blamed on him, too.
 
Written By: A fine scotch
URL: http://
Mark brings up a good point people ignore.

I live in Miami, and we were only recently removed from the Drought list after a good wet season. Most of our water comes from Aquifers below the state and Lake Okeechobee. However, the Lake is drying up and hasn’t been flowing in the right direction for a few years now.

But I wonder: considering how cheap Cruise liners provide potable water by desalinization, why hasn’t their been a business yet that has created a salt water to potable water Plant on the shores of the Atlantic? That would solve MANY problems.
 
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
Hell, you could even sell the left over salt, too
 
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
"What can government do? Not much, except ban and enforce in this case."
Since the government probably owns all the municipal water supplies, how about "raise the price?" Further, how about continuing, in the future, to take some shot at matching price to available supply, so that some mechanism other than command and control rationing can be used as a matching technique for supply and demand. This "price" thingie is something that has been used successfully to manage resources in short supply in many other commodity groups.

Water and the price mechanism: In Arizona; In Georgia.
 
Written By: Coyote
URL: http://www.coyoteblog.com
Ah. My bad, Scotch. Mea Culpa
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
So far, no one seems to have mentioned raising the price of water. I’d like to see a quota tariff system with the first 100 gals/day/per person in a household being at a slightly higher price, and everything above that at a whopping great price. Same price to apply to commercial establishments. The quota amounts should be tradeable as well.

The one place where I depart from market-friendly solutions is golf courses. NO water for the golfers. (Sorry: A personal thing.)
 
Written By: Acad Ronin
URL: http://
"But I wonder: considering how cheap Cruise liners provide potable water by desalinization, why hasn’t their been a business yet that has created a salt water to potable water Plant on the shores of the Atlantic? That would solve MANY problems."

The only one I know of for sure is the one at GITMO and I believe that is only for the use of GITMOganders and their new fenced in friends.

I’m sure there are some out there working on just such a business right now. I’m also sure it would end up being way more complicated than it needed to be via bureaucracy from the feds and locals.

 
Written By: markm
URL: http://
Just talked to someone "in the know"...there are indeed multiple desalinization plants up and down the east coast and one or two in Texas. Miami, Tampa, Mertle Beach, Hilton Head, etc.

The one in Tampa, as i’m told, is the one of the largest in the world (5-8million gallons per day).

SO, why Ga isn’t in on the fun I dunno. I will say though that Atlanta is a ways away from the drink.
 
Written By: markm
URL: http://
but it isn’t so far away that you couldn’t pipe it over.

and even if you couldn’t, but reducing the surrounding area’s need to compete for the same source of water, you free up Atlanta. Either way, to works.
 
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
Or, have the desalt plant by the ocean, and pump the fresh water inland, upstream of the reservoir. If it is profitable (after regulations, taxes and permits,) there will probably be some company looking to fill this need eventually. Regulations may actually be blocking the needed progress in this area though.
Every metro Atlantan uses about 70 gallons of water per day.
That just seems like an awful lot of water to be using in a day. Showers are probably the majority of the use. Might be time to start turning off the shower between soaking, and rinsing. You don’t really need the water running while you soap up.

Here’s an interesting tool, but the numbers are skewed a bit towards inefficiencies.

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/sq3.html

Most toilets should now be 1.6gal flush (the high efficiency one we just installed works very well. Much better then the old 1.6gal) We have restricted shower heads. We haven’t kept the faucet running while brushing our teeth in years. We have all new washer, and dishwasher, so they are as efficient as we can afford.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Every metro Atlantan uses about 70 gallons of water per day. That could be cut to about 45 gallons through in-home conservation efforts...
One of the things that really bugs me about many of the AGW crew, particularly within my family, is how wasteful they are, from electricity, petrol, refuse to water. A reduction from 70 to 45 gallons a day isnt conservation, its common sense. Reducing usage to below 45 gallons a day is conservation.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Joel, I was under the impression the rainy season wasn’t all that rainy here (in Florida), and that Lake Okeechobee is still well under its normal levels, which means drought conditions will return pretty quickly (unless Noel made a bigger contribution than I think it did).

But drought has afflicted Florida for the last year—ironic in view of how many storms blew through the state in 2004 and 2005. But the drought was also brought on in part by that same parade of hurricane.

After Katrina, people noticed the levees around Okeechobee were not in the best of shape. People also noticed local history, to wit, that in 1928, hurricane induced breaches of those levees led to the death of over 2500 people (the usual figure is 2800+, but has been subject to upward revisions in recent years), and that in 2004 four hurricanes passed over or near to the lake. (Yes, there were places in central Florida that were unlucky enough to be in the direct path of four different storms that year.) This concern was reinforced by Wilma later that season, which also moved fairly close to the lake.
People therefore got the idea in their head that if Florida suffered another year of storms in 2006, the levees would fail, with results comparable to Katrina or even 1928. The Army Corps of Engineers therefore lowered the water level of the lake before the start of the 2006 season, to prevent such a possibility, and assuming that at least one hurricane would come close enough to replenish the lake.
In 2006, we had one rather puny tropical storm.
In 2007, the only storm to come even close is Noel.
And in both years, regular rain levels have been below the usual amounts.
Lake Okeechobee remains unreplenished.
Got to hand it to those ACE meteorologists, don’t you think?

BTW, out of country—Israel just opened its fifth (IIRC) dezalination plant.
Over there, the Dead Sea is evaporating.
 
Written By: kishnevi
URL: http://
After posting the above I found this, with updated information.
http://thefloridamasochist.blogspot.com/2007/11/knuckleheads-of-day-award.html
 
Written By: kishnevi
URL: http://
"considering how cheap Cruise liners provide potable water by desalinization"

What makes you think it is cheap compared to conventional water supplies?


"Every metro Atlantan uses about 70 gallons of water per day."

Is that personal household use or a per capita figure which includes things like car washes, street cleaning and governmental use, etc.?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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