Saturday, June 25, 2011

Climate Change in CA

There's a new online tool, called Cal-Adapt, which allows users to explore the possible impacts of climate change on California.  Google, the California Energy Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey, and several universities were involved in the project.

Check it out:

They should make one for Georgia!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Virtual Water Conference Today

Just letting everyone know there's a free virtual conference on "The Future of Water" starting today at 11AM Eastern time.

Go to to participate.

The conversation should last about an hour, and includes scholars, engineers, and industry people from around the world.

Keep in mind that it's sponsored by Dow Chemical.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

SB 122

You probably all know by now that Senate Bill 122 has passed - the bill providing for public-private partnerships in the construction of Georgia's water infrastructure.  Georgia Water Wire does a great job summing up people's concerns about the bill:

In my opinion, this bill takes decision-power away from the public when it comes to water infrastructure projects, and places way too much emphasis on the construction of new reservoirs to feed Georgia's projected future needs.  We're going to have to see where this all goes, but I have to say I'm a bit worried . . .

Friday, April 29, 2011

UCR on iphone

For those of you who are anxiously awaiting WeTap for iphone (like I am), Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper just released their own, iphone-ready app that helps keep you updated with news about their organization, and the major river feeding Atlanta.  The app features news, events, maps, ways to get involved, and (my favorite part) the sound of the river.  Download it - UCR.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Get involved! Smartphones and public water

The Pacific Institute in California is releasing a new smartphone app called "WeTap."  Read about the project here:

As Americans drink more and more bottled water (up from an average of one gallon per person in 1980 to around thirty gallons per person today, according to Peter Gleick) the public drinking fountains we used to take for granted are falling by the wayside.  This app lets users map public drinking fountains, helping people find a non-bottled drink of water when they need it, as well as raising awareness about the state of our public drinking fountains and urging municipalities to maintain water fountains.

Get involved!  Download the app when it becomes available, and start mapping your local drinking fountains.  While there isn't an iphone version of the app yet (it will only be available on Android) this is a great idea.  Water should be a public resource - lets work together to keep it that way.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!!

Hello Water People-

Sorry it's been a while - I was at the American Society for Environmental History conference last week.  I got to see the Salt River (see the picture above), meet with representatives from Arizona State University's Decision Center for a Desert City,  and listen to the most cutting edge historical research on water, rivers, and other environmental topics.  It was a blast!!

In honor of Earth Day, I'd like everyone to think about the water system that we take for granted.  Take the quiz at and see if you can live on the 30 liters a day available to many people around the world - only 30 liters for drinking, cooking, sanitation, bathing.  FYI - the average American uses 262 liters a day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fishman's new book on Water

Today on NPR's "Fresh Air," host Terry Gross interviewed journalist Charles Fishman about his new book, The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water.  You can listen to the interview and read an excerpt from the book at :

After listening to the interview, it sounds like Fishman hits many of the major points that we need to address in Atlanta - water used in energy production, lawns, recycled water and "purple pipes," increased metering and tiered pricing structures  . . .    I wonder if he has anything to say about agriculture?  Or Georgia in particular?  I'm looking forward to reading the book!

Friday, April 8, 2011

The current issue of "Atlanta INtown" features a few articles on Atlanta's drinking water.  The articles are worth glancing through, but don't really say anything new.  If you can't pick up a hard copy, you can find it online at

On another note, a friend forwarded this article to me this week:

Is anyone familiar with this technology?  I'd like to know more about it.  It seems a system like this could work well in a humid, water-strapped Georgia as a last resort, especially since desalination is not an option here like it is on coastal California.  The water produced is on the expensive side, not to mention buying the apparatus in the first place.  How can you monitor safety/water quality?  What would be the environmental impact of using these on a large scale?

Though the article is from a few years back, Watermills are supposed to be available to the public this year.  Yet for now, I'm sticking to tap water.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Peak Water

For those of you interested in learning a bit more about what "peak water" is, Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute does an excellent job explaining the basics.  This concept is applicable in California, Georgia, and around the world.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Drought is Over (for now)

                                                           Photo of CA Sierras by chucklepix

No, this is not an April Fools joke.  Things are looking good on the water front - Lake Lanier is full, and with this year's massive snowpack in the Sierras, California's Governor has officially declared the three-year drought in that state over.  Here's Governor Brown's proclamation:

But this does not mean we can get complacent.  Though our water supply levels are deemed sufficient for the short-term, another drought is a fact of life for both Georgia and California.  Now is the time to start putting conservation and efficiency measures in place, and to come up with a sustainable plan for Georgia's water future.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Water related legislation up for a vote tomorrow

Hello Georgia Water Watchers-

Tomorrow is an important day for state legislation that could potentially impact our local water future.  The above video is a discussion between Sally Bethea, Director of Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a local environmental group, and the Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee.  They offer different views regarding a couple of the bills up for a vote.

The first, HR 424, wants to create a committee to study withdrawing more water from the Tennessee River Basin in order to serve metro Atlanta's growing water needs.  While Georgia already gets some water from the Tennessee River, around 2.7 million gallons a day, Georgia lawmakers would like to increase the amount Georgia transfers out of the river basin.  It would be interesting to hear what Tennessee and Alabama has to say about this idea.  Is Georgia out to "steal" water - like Los Angeles and the Owens River?  That's an extreme (and not really accurate) comparison, but Atlanta is better off using local resources to their fullest before looking towards expensive, potentially environmentally unfriendly, massive infrastructure projects.

The second bill, SB 122, will allow public/private partnerships in the creation of water infrastructure and reservoirs.  Do we want private business involved in the management of a public resource?  Historically, this hasn't always worked out for the best.  Private companies expect a return on their investment, so often charge more for water than a public utility would while offering poorer service.

Read SB 122 at:

If you would like to make your voice heard about this legislation, use this webpage to find your local representative:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tri-State Water Negotiations Continue

Earlier this week, the Miami Herald reported on the ongoing Georgia/Alabama/Florida water negotiations.
According to the article, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal says he's going to start concentrating his energy on negotiations with Alabama.  But why don't we focus on making some changes here in Atlanta?

Georgia's "water supply task force" met for the first time Monday - a committee organized to help Deal examine the state's water supply options as population and water use expands, and access to Lake Lanier becomes more tenuous.  Though still new on the job, the task force seems to be most concerned with finding new supply - in other words, building more reservoirs.  Before we build new massive, above-ground water storage facilities we need to start looking at ways to use the water we have more efficiently.  Hopefully the task force will also take conservation measures seriously.  Los Angeles offers a great model on how to get started.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

World Water Day

Happy World Water Day everyone!  I'm grateful that in Georgia and California, all I have to do is turn a tap to get potable water in my home.  Nearly one billion people around the world can't say the same.

Friday, March 18, 2011

World Water Day

Hello everyone-

World Water Day is coming up on March 22:  Organized by the United Nations, the purpose of the day is to spread awareness about the importance of fresh water, and advocate for the "sustainable management of freshwater resources" on a global level.

The 2011 theme is "Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge," a particularly pertinent topic for Atlanta. For the first time in world history, the majority of the world's population now lives in cities, which presents particular challenges, including flood control, providing clean water for city residents, and removing wastewater.  Many cities are growing faster than their infrastructure - some cities, especially in the developing world, are unable to to build systems and access water resources quickly enough to provide for new growth.  Some cities are not investing enough money in the system to keep up with the rate of urbanization (a lesson Atlanta is learning).  And new issues will arise as cities continue to grow, water scarcity increases, and the effects of climate change become more pronounced.  Yet cities also offer us opportunity - the chance to take advantage of economies of scale to use water more efficiently.  As we look towards solutions, the first shift we can make is to look at water resources on a river basin or watershed level.

What are you doing to spread awareness?

Also, a side note - happy St. Patrick's Day.  I'm curious what the impact is of all that dye dumped into urban rivers.  (Photo taken by John J. Kim, Chicago Sun-Times.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Atlanta's water rates

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The article below is an opinion piece from this week's "Creative Loafing," Atlanta's "alternative" newspaper.  It discusses Atlanta's ridiculously high water rates, caused by the need to update the city's hydraulic infrastructure, especially the sewer system.  While it seems faulty water meters are at least partially to blame, the city has been slow to act when it comes to addressing water customers' concerns.

According to a study posted on, Atlanta has the highest water rates of any major city in the US.  California's major cities also make the list, with Los Angeles ranking as the 6th most expensive, San Diego 4th, and San Francisco 10th.  You can also find CNN's investigative report into Atlanta's water rates at this website.

My apartment includes water in the rent, so I have yet to pay a water bill in Atlanta, but I've heard horror stories.  Anyone have experiences to share?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Update on Tri-State Water Dispute

The lawsuit over who can use the water in Lake Lanier continues to make its way through the courts.  The first court decision (from 2009) agrees with the historical record - originally, Lake Lanier was not built to provide drinking water to Atlanta.  But now metro Atlanta is utterly dependent on it for most of our water supply.  That leaves the metro area in quite the pickle.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Appeals Court to Consider Tri-State Water Dispute"

Who does this water belong to - Atlanta, Gwinnett County, Florida, shellfish?  We'll find out what the courts have to say.  The July deadline for some kind of water agreement between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama is looming . . .

Quote of the day (from the above article):
"'It's difficult to create jobs when you don't have water.'"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tap water is best. . .

Hey Atlanta-

Do you want chemicals leeching into your drinking water from its plastic container?  Then avoid bottled water - tap water is best.  And don't put your tap water in a plastic bottle.

Something to think about:

Better safe than possibly full of estrogen mimicking chemicals.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Welcome to H2O-lanta, Atlanta's water blog!

Hello y'all!  It seems some introductions are in order.  First off, why am I interested in water?  And what do I have to add to the conversation?  I have spent the majority of my life living in coastal California, where water is constantly on everyone's mind.  Southern California is utterly dependent on imported water in order to support its economy - from tourism, to the military, to construction and agriculture.  The region's growth would not be possible without water imported from Northern California and especially the Colorado River.  While in graduate school studying United States History, I found Californian's relationships to water so interesting that I wrote my PhD dissertation on water infrastructure development in early twentieth century San Diego, California.  Now I am teaching in the History Department at Georgia State University, and continue to read widely about local, regional, national, and global water-related issues. 

I heard about Atlanta's water woes during the region's latest drought, but didn't think much about it, until I relocated here at the end of last summer.  Now that I'm living in Atlanta, it is time to do a little research on my new local water system.  This blog will record what I discover as I learn more about Atlanta's drinking water and people's interactions with the local environment.  The Southeast is not generally considered arid, so what's the deal with a water shortage?  Is this something new?  Where does our water come from?  What are the most urgent current issues pertaining to the water system?  How does access to water impact the local community, those downstream, and the environment?  Most importantly, what are some possible solutions for a more stable and sustainable water future for the metro Atlanta area?  Coming from an area that is constantly plagued by drought, maybe Californians have some insight to share with Georgians - both in terms of successes and potential pit-falls to avoid.  Lets solve Atlanta's water problems, one step, or one drop, at a time.