Dude, Where’s My Water?

Today I read that Orme, TN, near the Georgia border, has run out of water. Water had been rationed so severely, residents only got three hours of running water a day. But now it’s gone.

Their big solution? Hooking up to the water supply in Bridgeport, Ala. Great, no drought there. That oughta solve the problem–for about five minutes.

I’ve about lost patience with folks in Georgia, Alabama and everywhere else in the South. People are steeped in denial about the water situation. Frankly, I was shocked that we didn’t have mandatory water rationing in Nashville this summer.

We’re in a drought. Quit sticking your head in the sand and deal with it, people. It’s not that hard–people out west do it all the time.

In October the governor of Georgia finally–finallyordered some modest conservation measures:

Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered North Georgia businesses and utilities to cut water use by 10 percent to conserve more of the state’s dwindling water supply during an epic drought. Mr. Perdue called the order a “first step” to reducing water use and encouraged residents to treat their drying lawns and dirty cars as a “badge of honor.”

Geez, that must’ve hurt. What took him so long? Meanwhile, Purdue is pissing and moaning about how the Army Corps of Engineers is withholding Georgia’s water, that snail darters or whatever are given precedence over people. Whaah.

I started to write this post back in September, when I read this in my morning paper:

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 sprayed and football fields were watered, prisoners got two showers a day and Coca-Cola’s bottling plants chugged along at full strength. On an 81-degree day this month, an outdoor theme park began to manufacture what was intended to be a 1.2-million-gallon mountain of snow.

For shame. For shame! They whine about Tennessee stealing their water, but while 145 residents of Orme are rationed to three hours of water service a day, they’re making snow at a theme park on a hot day. For shame.

“We are not here because we consumed our way into this drought, as some would suggest,” said Carol Couch, Mr. Perdue’s director of environmental protection.

I’m going to call bullshit on that one.

Anyone who’s grown up out west knows how to deal with a drought. First of all, you cancel the theme park snow festival. The fountains in front of the subdivision are turned off. You don’t water your lawn, you don’t fill your swimming pool, you quit washing the car, and when you go to a restaurant, they don’t automatically give you that glass of ice water that no one ever drinks anyway–not to save the water in the glass, but to save on what’s used in the dishwashing. If you want a glass of water you ask for it, and if it’s a drought, you might have to pay for it. Whaah.

I mean, come on people. This isn’t hard. It’s common sense. It’s called conservation. Why are people so steeped in denial about this?

Even worse, there was plenty of warning–like a massive drought in 2000 that the media seems to have forgotten about. That should have been Georgia’s first clue that maybe they should institute some long-range policies. But no:

Last year, a bill died in the Georgia Legislature that would have required that low-flow water devices be installed in older houses before they are resold. Most golf courses are classified as “agricultural.” Water permits are still approved first come first served.

And Georgia is not at the back of the pack. Alabama, where severe drought is even more widespread, is even further behind in its planning.

Grow up already, people. What are you, five? Can we put some adults in charge, please? This problem is not going to go away–not for long, at least. The climate has changed. Drought is going to be a reality in the Southeast, and coupled with population growth, you’re looking at a big problem. Deal with it now, not later. Be a grown-up, for crying out loud.

Two years ago a Merrill Lynch financial advisor told me “water is the new oil.” I don’t doubt it. Hey, Bechtel tried to privatize water in Bolivia, which has got to give you a heads up on that score. Someone in this country needs to be an adult and make some hard decisions.

Drought is the new reality. Deal with it.

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