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'Why don't you people understand'

POSTED: November 22, 2007 5:00 a.m.
By now you have probably figured out the mussels in Apalachicola Bay are really red herrings.
Georgia officials raising Cain about federal agencies releasing “our” water to nourish Florida’s shellfish is no more than a diversion. The fuss is designed to make us believe the Gold Dome crowd is truly doing something to save and protect our water resources. As usual, they are lying, and the big Atlanta media have bought their lies.
If we stopped immediately watering the mussels in Florida, we would still be in the same drying-up mud hole. Mussels or no mussels, Georgia is running out of water. The drought has given us a scary preview of what lies ahead for our state and region. Nearly seven million Georgians  —  85 counties and three-fourths of the population  —  are now directly affected by dire water shortages.
Tragically, this drought may not be a preview of anything. It may be the real thing  —  a years-long dry spell that could change forever the landscape and quality of life in our region.
Agriculture, still the state’s largest industry, won’t yield crops without rain. Atlanta, still the economic engine of the state, looks with fear to the thin trickle coming from the Chattahoochee as it sees its hopes go pffft.
For years developers have been major players in the economy, selling dreams of shopping malls and pretty lawns  —  hallmarks of the suburban paradise. Now these developers and the support industries pray as hard as our farmers for a return to the rainy prosperity of bygone days, when the water flowed from Lanier like magic.
The drought of 2007 caught Sonny Perdue’s administration with its pants down. The Perdue crowd promised years ago to head off water shortages. The drought also threw back the curtain on what the Perdue people had achieved so far  —  nothing. Blaming the mussels was just a fast-draw CYA move.
Heading to Washington and appearing at a televised hug-in with two of his fellow governors, Perdue hopes to mislead us again into believing our neighbors are buying into the idea of letting Georgia control their shared water hole. He also is consoling us with more promises that he has everything under control. Many folks are beginning to realize that a Sonny Perdue promise, whether it’s about water, transportation, education or flags, is worth less than a Jeff Davis dollar.   
This next statement would be funny, were it not so catastrophic: Sonny is looking to the federal government to bail out Georgia.
Let’s get real, folks.     
This is not gay marriage we’re talking about. It is not even an oil shortage. It is water, and water is precious.
A human being can live only about 72 hours without water. An entire state would survive less than half a decade without water.
If we don’t solve the water problem with conservation and strict developmental rules, we’re dead. The New Georgia could be the New Dust Bowl. Georgia could become Oklahoma East, without the oil rigs and cowboys.
During the 1940s Sen. Richard Russell and Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield lobbied for construction of Lake Lanier.
They saw the lake as opening the way to a new era of growth and prosperity for metro Atlanta and North Georgia. They were visionaries, and they were right. More water resources inevitably meant more growth.
However, Hartsfield, Russell and the rest of the lake promoters were wrong about one thing. They assumed that their successors would be able stewards of what they had left behind.
They had no idea that Georgia would enter an era in which most of its elected state and federal officials would become obsessed with half-baked national and international ideologies and put aside the nuts-and-bolts job of government, which is to provide and protect infrastructure and services.
Last week I happened to be interviewing a transplanted professional on another topic when the water issue came up.
“I left New Jersey to bring my family here and live. I thought I would find more opportunity than in just about any other place in the country. From the outside, Atlanta looked so promising,” the professional said, and then added, “I never would have come to this area if I had known water resources were so scarce and poorly conserved. Water is the key to everything. Water is life. Why don’t you people understand that? Is it the schools or what?”

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

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