Building more reservoirs won't solve Georgia water needs

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 Building more reservoirs is not the best way to slake North Georgia's growing thirst for water, according to a team of researchers that includes a University of Georgia ecologist.

Some state political leaders, including Gov.-elect Nathan Deal, say the state needs to build more man-made lakes to store water. But reservoirs actually reduce water availability overall, especially for Atlanta's downstream neighbors in South Georgia, Alabama and Florida, according to the researchers. Because reservoirs contribute to water evaporation, less water finds its way downstream, said John Kominoski, a researcher in the UGA School of Ecology.

"We don't have canyons in the Southeast as they do in the Southwest, so our reservoirs are shallow and lose capacity more rapidly through evaporation," explained Kominoski, part of a group of scientists who analyzed freshwater resources in the Southwestern and Southeastern United States.

Their article, "Reclaiming freshwater sustainability in the Cadillac Desert," focused mainly on the Southwest and tested predictions in environmentalist Marc Reisner's book, "Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water."

The scientists' analysis was published in a special edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study's authors also include University of South Carolina geographer William Graf and Tushar Sinha, a North Carolina State University research scientist. John Sabo of Arizona State University was the lead author.

For the most part, "Cadillac Desert" was on the mark, they said. The book predicted the West's water would be inadequate to meet the growing demands of cities, agriculture and industry, and those predictions are playing out as Reisner predicted.

But the scientists also found out that the Southeast also has a relatively low capacity for water storage, Graf said.

The group's calculations probably underestimate the water supply challenges of Georgia and other Southeastern states, Kominoski said. They used data from 1950 to 1999. But some of the highest temperatures and most extreme droughts ever recorded in the Southeast have come in the past decade.

Reservoirs - not just future man-made lakes, but those that already exist - also pose a threat to aquatic wildlife, Kominoski said.

Reservoirs change the water temperatures downstream as well as in the reservoirs themselves, and change the natural water flow patterns in rivers. Native species of fish have a harder time surviving under those circumstances, opening the door for invasive species to come in.

"Our current system doesn't support the needs of people, let alone ecosystems," Kominoski said. "Reservoirs and interbasin transfers don't increase the availability of water. They just change the location of the water."

Building reservoirs just means less water for those communities downstream or from nearby communities, if the water is piped from adjacent watersheds, he said.

Georgia and other Southeastern states need to find a new water strategy beyond reservoirs, Kominoski said - water conservation reclamation, more efficient use and even small-scale storage like underground cisterns that can collect rainwater from building roofs.

"Because we have mostly inland metropolitan areas in small watersheds, we need to use less water. Less water comes to us, and our ability to store water is challenged by our climate and geographic location," he said.

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seenitB4 12/20/10 - 08:59 am
Too bad we can't capture some

Too bad we can't capture some of the water when we have the floods.....we better get on the ball cause we can't live w/o it.

Iamrightyouarewrong 12/20/10 - 09:03 am
Being a coastal state,

Being a coastal state, Georgia needs desalination plants to provide water from the ocean. Built in conjunction with nuclear power plants we could provide both electricity and water for Georgians. But with the number of liberals still in power in America that isn't going to happen for a long time.

resident 12/20/10 - 02:01 pm
I think they are correct

I think they are correct water evaporates for sure..Science has this fact corret. They do not properly show a reservoir though. Holding ponds totally separate from the rivers and canyons. They use them all over the place. There is also ways to clean treated water to make it safe for reuse, proven may times over. The best idea is conservation, easy to fix this by fining businesses like BANKS, Apartment complexes, rich that don't care and well basically all that have sprinklers and run them in the rain, Run them during the day, Watering the streets (by the way this will not make them grow anything but slime and algae). How about recycling the water treated back into the rivers and filling the reservoirs with this as well. Just no real thought going into the real issue too time spent on continued misuse preservation rather than correction.

Hatfield0278 12/20/10 - 03:33 pm
I like the scientists idea.

I like the scientists idea. He's brilliant. Everyone, just use less water and think of a new strategy because the current one doesn't work.
Now, there's a problem-solver for you. I think he's also eligible for the Captain Obvious Award.

Ushouldnthave 12/20/10 - 03:45 pm
I'm with Hatfield. State an

I'm with Hatfield. State an obvious problem and give no solution. Conservation only works in a stagnant population, but as population grows you must produce more resources to support it. The question is how do you do that.

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