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September 24, 2008

Southeast US still running dry

Posted: 09:25 AM ET

While we're watching the election, the hurricanes, Wall Street hitting an iceberg, and a worsening gasoline shortage here in the Southeast, this part of the country is still in crisis over another precious resource: Water.

A cove and docks on Georgia's Lake Lanier, 2003

A cove and docks on Georgia's Lake Lanier, 2003

Though it's been largely out of the news the Southeast drought continues. In fact, 35.1% of the southeastern region is in moderate drought or worse. Now to be fair, at this time last year that number was 76.7%. Plus, when talking extreme drought, only 6.9% of the region is classified as extreme, whereas that percentage was an incredible 41.7% last September.

So where is all the water if the acreage of drought is down? Many areas of the Southeast are now in what is called a hydrological drought. That is a technical term for Phase Two. In Phase One (agricultural drought), crops, grasses and other shallow rooted plants get stressed by the lack of available moisture for growth. Your grass turns brown, but the lakes are still relatively full. Now all droughts start as a deficiency of precipitation, but this Phase Two issue now affects rivers and reservoirs. Your grass is brown and your boat is aground. Some areas are in Phase Two-B….dead grass…empty lake and dry well.

Dry, weed-choked, and the docks are now dry-docks.  (Photos Wendy Green)

The same cove last month: Dry, weed-choked, and the docks are now dry-docks. (Photos Wendy Green)

And this is a multi-year drought…in Atlanta, last year brought a rainfall deficit of 18.2” and now 2008 is another 8.0” down compared to normal.

What is a little more telling is available drinking water for the cities in the area. The water supply for a major part of metro Atlanta is Lake Lanier. Currently, Lake Lanier is 16.4 feet below summer full pool. Last year it was 11.5 feet low at this time, yet the major media was all over it. Drought in 2008 seems to be “Old” news even though the reality of long term drought makes this year much more extreme.

I talked to Assistant Professor Georgina DeWeese, Ph.D. in Biogeography and Physical Geography at the University of West Georgia. She said, “People need to realize that water is a resource and not an unlimited one. Drought is going to be here a while. Get used to it and start saving water.”

So the grass is dead and you can’t launch your boat, but what about those that depend on the rain to make their livelihoods? Some farmers have lost two years of income and culled their herds….plant nurseries have filed for bankruptcy…lake front houses have no lake… but, what if Atlanta runs out of water? Can you say mass migration? How long do you think you could live without any water coming out of your tap? A week? A month? Maybe.

So not to be a fatalist…people must stop WASTING water. Can you believe in Cobb County, Georgia a person can’t power wash their house, but they CAN hire someone to do it. From the county’s website….”Pressure washing can only be performed by a licensed professional.” What? They are still using water!

Chad Myers CNN Meteorologist

Filed under: environment • meteorology • Weather

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Franko   September 24th, 2008 11:58 am ET

“People need to realize that water is a resource and not an unlimited one. "

On the Water planet; Water Water everywhere, but where you need it
Terraforming, geo-engineering, Drought is in helping ourselves.

Wisdom   September 24th, 2008 1:19 pm ET

Send them Brando... it has electrolytes!

Franko   September 24th, 2008 2:29 pm ET

"Marlon Brando is widely considered the greatest movie actor of all time"

How can he entertain from drought to rain ?

Enrico   September 24th, 2008 3:40 pm ET

Perhaps we should actually establish a manageable flow of immigrants. Saving water only goes so far; it's increases in population that have the greatest impact on water usage.

Uncle B   September 24th, 2008 3:45 pm ET

No water in Georgia? Take the republican stand! Nuke Iran! Blame the Muslims! kill an Iraqi a day and your problems go away! The Jews on Wall street did it – we need death squads in baseball caps like McCain's, carl roving the streets at night, standing up to punishment like real Men, worshiping war and war heroes, cleansing America of its woes! This will work. It worked for Nazi Germany, it is working in post commie Russia, and if we can get enough of it going, senseless anarchy and depravity will solve all our problems! lets get brutal with our formidable armed forces and threaten the world, Kill! Kill! Kill! But don't dare graduate from Harvard, especially if your skin is brown, and don't dare talk good sense, not when we need a cause to blind ourselves with, and never ever tell the truth about the thieves in power, or georgie bush will brand you a terrorist – a death sentence without judge or jury! wake Up America – Last Call!

An Inquirer   September 24th, 2008 4:45 pm ET

I am interested in something. For about a year, I have been following the rainfall in Atlanta, and virtually every month, the rain has been above "normal." Given the amount of rain needed to make up for past shortages, I understand that we can still have a drought classification long after rainfall has returned to "normal." However, what interests me in this article is the statement that Atlanta in "2008 is another 8.0” down compared to normal." Are we looking at different weather stations for Atlanta? Is there some other explanation for the discrepancy? (I do expect September to be much below normal - it has really been dry in Atlanta this month!)

Jose Canseco   September 24th, 2008 4:56 pm ET

Nice to see the schizos are out in full force. Just hold my hand and I'll take you back to the old folks home now. Too bad its against the law to cull the elderly and schizos. Now that would really save some water even if it is too "Jonathan Swift" of an idea for most of you!

Jose, I edited your comment to take out the personal insult directed at another commenter. And I believe you about the steroids. 🙂 PD

Franko   September 24th, 2008 5:27 pm ET

"Perhaps we should actually establish a manageable flow of immigrants"

More immigrants the better. People mean wealth and progress.
Not only just fruit picking Mexican slaves, doing jobs beneath US voters.
But also infrastructure, irrigation builders. or thirsty, and flooded are US.

Roscoe   September 24th, 2008 9:34 pm ET

You left out the key fact: The army corps of engineers played a major factor in this drought. They let Lake Lanier drain way too much a few years ago. If they hadn't done that, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Albert Einstein   September 24th, 2008 9:43 pm ET

You must be the one that takes action now. Nobody else is going to do it for you, ever. Voice your opinion and share ideas. Be open. Tell your district officials how you feel about our local environment and what to do about it.

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

-Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

Ray G.   September 24th, 2008 11:50 pm ET

Thanks, Uncle B. I'm sure you made James Madison roll over in his grave.

thristy   September 25th, 2008 10:03 am ET

I live in charoltte North Carolina and the drought has killed almost all of my plants in the back yard.

But if its natures way then let it be, i guess

K T   September 25th, 2008 1:20 pm ET

Hey everybody move to Michigan! We have plenty of water and we sure could use a population increase to help our economy. Thank you.

Andrew Maloof   September 25th, 2008 1:47 pm ET

An Inquirer,

I work in the CNN weathercenter and would like to show you the official rainfall numbers for the last year and a half.

Sept 2008 0.75" Actual -2.58" Departure
Aug 3.77" +0.10"
July 7.17" +2.05"
June 0.58" -3.05"
May 2.80" -1.15"
April 3.22" -0.40"
March 5.17" -0.21"
Feb 4.61" -0.07"
Jan 2.85" -2.18"

Dec 2007 4.78" Actual +0.96" Departure
Nov 0.96" -3.14"
Oct 2.47" -0.64"
Sept 2.92" -1.17"
Aug 3.48" -0.19"
July 1.85" -3.27"
June 3.66" +0.04"
May 2.05" -1.90"
April 1.79" -1.83"
March 1.31" -4.07"
Feb 2.63" -2.05"
Jan 3.95" -1.08"

So as you can see, a few months were above normal, but most were well below.


JBK   September 25th, 2008 3:03 pm ET

Submitted for your consideration: Desalinization. What part is misunderstood? People are willing to pay an outrageous mark up for bottled water, so the "too expensive" argument doesn't work for me. The sooner the conversion technology is developed, the less expensive the water will be later in the long run. Thanks!

Agree completely JBK, but not until the enormous power consumption of the various de-sal processes are addressed. PD

Franko   September 25th, 2008 7:25 pm ET

Sea Water Reverse Osmosis;
"fundamental thermodynamic limit for desalinating seawater is 0.86 kWh/m^3 " Lowest actual operating plant is 1.58 kWh/m^3 - Several cubic meters, fresh for a buck.

King Kanute Gore: order the climate to EcoOptimumUtopiaHappiness ?

johnell deloach   September 27th, 2008 9:19 pm ET

i think that it is sad that people are with out water and all that the governer wants to do is support this war they need too help these people that are in the drought

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