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: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/displaybill.aspx?BillType=SB&billNum=122

If you would like to make your voice heard about this legislation, use this webpage to find your local representative: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/state/main/?state=GA

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:  http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/.  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 CNN.com, 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.