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POSTED: November 6, 2007 5:00 a.m.
Of all the crises endured by our state during the last century, none were more predictable than running out of water.
Since Atlanta’s boom began in the 1950s, federal and state experts have known  —  and said in writing — that North Georgia’s water supply was limited. They said action should be taken immediately to conserve water and extend the water supply. Development could not continue indefinitely without solving the onrushing water shortage.
The water profs who forecast dry times ahead  — just like today’s pointy-headed climate-change crowd  —  were mostly jeered and ignored. That a record drought precipitated the current disaster might have been a slight surprise.
Before the drought ever started, however, the water-shortage train was on the track and headed full speed toward us.
Unbridled development was simply more than two medium-sized multipurpose reservoirs and a couple of creek-sized rivers could take.
Conservation should have begun years ago. More than that, new water-supply sources should have been created.
Former House Speaker Tom Murphy proposed building a giant West Georgia reservoir to accommodate future growth. But his power in the Legislature was waning. Republicans killed the idea. “Just more Democratic waste,” they said.
(I want to apologize to Murphy for some of my harsh words from the past. Now that Romeo Richardson is running the House, I am beginning to see what a visionary Murphy was. I had no idea the Legislature would become so corrupt and gutless without him. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich also deserves credit for foresight on the water issue. He set up a federal compact among Georgia, Alabama and Florida to forestall a war over water allocation. The compact has fizzled, but Newt tried.)
Before Murphy’s reservoir plan crashed and burned, the city of Atlanta purchased sizeable tracts in Dawson and Paulding counties as sites for a possible second airport.
Some of that land would have been perfect for conversion into impoundments, once it became apparent that the second airport wasn’t going to happen. No one appeared interested. There’s more quick money in building  —  or zoning for  —  cracker-box mansions than in carving out lakes for drinking water.
When Sonny Perdue was elected governor in 2002, Georgia leaders appeared serious about the need for a state water-supply plan. There was a plan in place to build reservoirs controlled by the state that would be set aside solely for drinking water reserves. They would not be subject to the water release mandates imposed on the Corps of Engineers. The 2003 session of the General Assembly had already been deemed “the year of water,” when leaders in government, business and the environmental community were going to cooperate to solve Georgia’s coming water crisis.  
Needless to say, once Perdue took office, that effort never happened.
As for our leaders’ attempt to blame the Corps of Engineers for the shortage, it’s certainly true that the Corps’ repeated release of water from Lake Lanier and other reservoirs is worrisome. Federal law, however, has long required that the Corps release water in its reservoirs for purposes other than drinking water. Besides, downstream communities, beyond water-starved metro Atlanta, need water, too.
We may disagree with the law, but that disagreement does not excuse our readers’ negligence. Everyone who is informed (or should be) about the circumstances of our water supply knows that relying solely on Corps of Engineers reservoirs for drinking water was nuts  —  a disaster waiting to happen.
When the crowd at the Statehouse starts jumping up and down about the Corps three months before we run out of water, it seems more like they’re hunting for scapegoats to cover up their own lack of foresight than attempting to solve our water problem.
So here we sit, watching our available drinking water drain away and praying for rain. Hopefully the Good Lord will bail us out with some nice, solid downpours. Even if God cooperates and we don’t run out of water this time, remember this: There’s no excuse for the predicament we’re in now.
While Perdue wheeled and dealed in land speculation with political appointees, raised tens of millions in campaign contributions and took lots of overseas trips, nothing was done to ensure that our government would meet the basic obligation of supplying drinking water to its population. While our state legislators played politics and chased skirts, none of them pushed for a solution to our water crisis.
So don’t buy any spin from our politicians about how they’re taking action. We’re way past the time when they can do anything much for us. We’re relying on God’s grace and luck to save us now.
We also are witnessing a dress rehearsal for coming events  —  a bone-dry region that will wither unless we elect strong leaders ready and willing to show us the way out of the coming desert.

Contact Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA  30156, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net
 

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