September 24, 2008
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.
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.
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
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