This blog previously expressed the hope that some good thinking could prevail in the South about preparing for a greater amount of waterless energy generation.
“It’s raining again in the Southeast,” writes Larry Copeland for USA Today. “Much of the drought-parched region has been deluged recently by winter downpours.” Not that the drought has ended, but rather, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and the National Weather Service, it has eased across most of the region.
Lake Purdy, the main drinking water supply for Birmingham, Ala., is at normal levels for the first time in almost a year. From Jan. 1 through Sunday, Birmingham received 12.09 inches of rain, just below the average of 12.78.
Some Alabama farmers are finding fields too wet to prepare for spring planting. North Carolina dropped recently from 39 to zero counties in the worst category of drought.
In Atlanta, where stark pictures of a drier-by-the-day Lake Lanier pushed the drought into the national spotlight last fall, the drought is essentially over, says Pat Stevens, chief of the environmental planning division of the Atlanta Regional Commission.
Now comes a tougher challenge: the future. “The Southeast has not yet come to grips with the fact that it has a water problem, that it needs to plan for its water usage, that it can’t take for granted that all the water it needs will always be there,” says Robin Craig, a law professor and water expert at Florida State University’s College of Law.
The sharks are drawn to the blood in the lack of water, i.e., the potential for bitter battles over water rights. Areas where disputes are swirling:
- •Georgia, Florida and Alabama
Locked in a battle over six rivers for 18 years, agreed to a water-sharing deal last fall that quickly collapsed. They couldn’t reach another agreement by a self-imposed deadline of March 1; the states now must wait three years for the Army Corps of Engineers to decide who gets what — unless they return to the bargaining table, says Pat Robbins, a corps spokesman. He says a formula for sharing water from the Alabama, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint rivers will be included in the corps’ next operations manual, due in 2011.
Draws most of its drinking water from Lake Lanier, a Corps of Engineers reservoir that is still 10 feet below normal. Disagreements remain over what caused the 2-year-plus drought that led to bans on outdoor water use and car washing across much of the region. Stevens of the Atlanta Regional Commission says low water levels at Lake Lanier were caused not by drought but by corps “mismanagement.” Replies Robbins, “The problem with Lake Lanier is lack of rainfall. There’s no doubt about it.”
- •The Carolinas.
South Carolina is gearing up to spend at least $3 million in legal fees over the next three years to fight North Carolina over water from the Catawba River. The state has sued to prevent the North Carolina cities of Concord and Kannapolis from pumping millions of gallons a day from the Catawba.
- •Tennessee River.
Georgia recently launched a bid for water from the Tennessee River. Last month, the Legislature overwhelmingly approved resolutions authorizing creation of a commission that would seek to move Georgia’s border with Tennessee 1.1 miles north, correcting what the state says was a surveyor’s mistake in 1818. That would give Georgia part of the Tennessee River.
Dana Coleman, a spokesman for Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, says, “Tennessee, like Georgia, is dealing with its own drought and water issues. … Moving state borders to share water is not a realistic part of any long-term solution.”