Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bear Creek Future Looking Bright

According to an article from a couple of days ago in the AJC, the status at Bear Creek Reservoir is looking up:

"Georgia's water crisis would be worse if the state Environmental Protection Division weren't relaxing its rules so more water can be pulled from streams and more water can be sold from one utility to another.

As a result, the Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County, which serves Athens as well as other cities, is actually filling back up in the middle of a historic drought and could be full, without rain, by the end of February."

Hopefully some of the other areas in Georgia that have suffered particular hardship during this drought will begin to greatly improve as well. I for one am glad that the long, dry and warm winter doesn't seem so bleak any longer.

I would still encourage water conservation year round as I'm sure many officials would, but thankfully, it seems that some people do have a plan and that we are learning from this situation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Water levels up? No plan needed?

I heard on the news a couple of days ago that Bear Creek is steadily but slowly rising. It is just 8 feet below full pool now instead of 14. This is good news and is no doubt due in large part to the excellent conservation efforts of Athenians.

Not all cities are experiencing the same quality of conservation, however. Other Southeastern cities are feeling the stress of the drought and remembering what past times were like when water was scarce. Macon ran out of water 13 years ago when a tropical storm hit and floodwaters took out the water supply.

"State and federal authorities trucked in millions of gallons of water, set up 26 staging areas around the city and hauled in 2,200 portable bathrooms, said Johnny Wingers, director of Macon's emergency management agency.

'I get chill bumps thinking about it,' he said. 'It's 21 days I'll never forget. It burned an indelible impression in my brain.'"

One would think that with all of these past situations and the very imminent current drought situation that a serious well thought out future plan would be available, but according to the above quoted article, there is still not really a plan.

Maybe we should have one now, though I hope we never need it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A positive drought effect?

I have seen more and more signs and flyers around requesting water conservation year round. The drought situation in Georgia is a rather permanent one and water conservation year round could keep us from having a serious water problem like we've had this season.

Mostly I've thought about the drought in the sense of there not being enough water for certain industries to function. But there are so many things that it has affected that I have not even considered. Many horse owners have been forced to sell their horses because of the drought. No rain means no grass and no hay. The owners who haven't sold are paying much more for hay, $80 for a large round bale instead of $30.

Clearly, there are many negative effects of the drought as we've seen, especially on agriculture, but oddly enough, there have also been some positive ones. The drought has stressed Georgia pecan trees, but actually helped them to avoid disease and insect damage. Georgia's pecan crop this year is at the top in the US and the world. Georgia will produce three more times the amount of pecans this year than last year resulting in 120 million pounds.

Who would have thought that a drought could help something grow?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

From Drought to Flood . . . to Drought

I have become acclimatized this semester to writing about a lack of water and the negative impact it can have on the environment and our livelihood. More than two years ago in New Orleans, however, a lack of water might have been welcome.

Though the flood waters in New Orleans have long receded, they have left their mark there. Some marks will fade with time. Some marks will be left forever.

It was harder for me to see the long-term effects of Katrina in the downtown area since I had never been to New Orleans before, but I couldn't argue with the acres and acres of fields that once held hundreds of people's homes in the areas nearer to water. It was surreal to stand on the steps of a house, which were the only remaining part, and then turn around and see a levee just a few hundred feet away.

As I stood in the ruins left by Katrina, my mind was filled with questions. Why did this happen? Who was responsible for these levee breaches? Why didn't more people evacuate? Where are the people who used to live here? Why can't they come home? I am sure that these questions have all been asked before, and some, I'm sure, have been answered. Yet they still plague my thoughts. I felt sorrow and anger, and I wanted to help, but I felt helpless.

The word helpless does not describe everyone we met in New Orleans however. There were many visions of devastation but there were also those of hope and renewal. There are people that are working to rebuild and renew New Orleans. They are nurses, volunteers, church-goers, and even a few thousand ophthalmologists. Yes, there are people working, but there is much work to be done.

New Orleans is not suffering from a drought of water, but it is suffering a drought. New Orleans needs people and funds to rebuild and regain its previous status. New Orleans is suffering from a drought of resources.

The flood is gone, but the drought remains.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Drought Update

We have now made it through our driest month. Bear Creek Reservoir has gone up a little because of the small amount of rain we have received, and Athens residents have been doing a wonderful job conserving water. We were asked to reduce water use by 20%, but we have reached a reduction of 28%. Steve Dorsch, the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Coordinator, is very pleased with these results.

Water quality is not an issue yet as the reservoir is still at about 50% its capacity. What is important to realize now is that even if the reservoir is filled back up, the drought will not end. Dorsch says that because it has taken so long to get where we are (22 months or so), it will take at least as long if not longer to refill reservoirs and replenish water in other places such as soil.

A warm, dry winter is predicted, and if our winter is such, it could make spring and summer months quite interesting. Let's hope that the weather predictions are wrong and our conservation efforts will continue to grow.

There is a drought management report from October 25 posted on the ACC website under the Public Utilities section if anyone is interested. There are some pretty astounding comparison pictures.

Monday, October 29, 2007

From Georgia to Florida

I participated in a bike ride from Athens to Jacksonville this weekend, which went extremely well (thank you Tim and Kimberly!). As I rode very slowly from North Georgia down across the Florida line and into the Sunshine State, I was able to closely observe many bodies of water along the way. It was extremely clear to see the disparity in water levels between here and further south. The bodies of water down in South Georgia and Florida were at normal if not better than normal levels and there was not much sign of drought. There was also a fair amount of rainfall on the way down and I had the joy of riding through some of it. The rain just seems to be missing us up here.

As I am following my story and gathering more information, I am becoming more and more concerned about the severity of the situation. I have known for quite some time now that things have been getting serious, but seeing each week go by with hardly any rain is starting to make the situation a reality for me, and witnessing the comparison of the drought situation here with other places in the South certainly made it more real.

What other steps can we take? Water use has been decreased by at least 20%, but will that be enough? Will we have to see water rationing in our homes?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

UOBWA Meeting

My group and I went to an Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority meeting last week. It was pretty intense and they discussed quite a few things.

The meeting was held at Bear Creek Reservoir. I don't know how familiar any of you are with the reservoir (except Amber) but it's huge. For whatever reason, I had envisioned a pond in my mind, and it's a rather massive body of water. The reservoir is 505 acres and holds 5 billions gallons of water. There is a treatment plant on site that treats water for Jackson, Barrow and Oconee counties. Clarke County water is pumped directly to Clarke and treated here.

One of the most astonishing things we experienced was touring the facility. The sight of the reservoir made me realize how bad the drought is. The reservoir was down 14 feet and there are islands sticking out here and there that have never been visible before. One of my friends went out of town this weekend and said that she saw places on the river that were almost completely dry.

Water conservation is now more important than ever. We have had a little rain in the past few days. A result of prayer? Who knows, but it couldn't hurt.