Water wars: Atlanta 's loss might be felt across state

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ATLANTA --- Jobs and other economic benefits that don't flow to Atlanta because of its water- supply problems aren't likely to trickle down to Augusta and other parts of the state, many experts say.

Rather than benefiting, other cities in the region are more likely to suffer along with Atlanta.

When a federal judge in Jacksonville, Fla., ruled last month that the 1946 federal legislation creating Lake Lanier didn't authorize Atlanta to withdraw drinking water, some outside the city greeted the news as an economic opportunity

"The significance of today's ruling for Alabama's economic and environmental future is tremendous," Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said in a statement issued shorty after the ruling was announced. "Atlanta has based its growth on the idea that it could take whatever water it wanted whenever it wanted it and that the downstream states would simply have to make do with less."

Because Atlanta uses only about 1 percent of the water that would otherwise flow to Alabama and Florida, many Georgia officials feel Mr. Riley's actual goal was to hobble Atlanta's growth rather than to add water to the other states.

Judge Paul Magnuson's ruling could very well do that because complying with it would require roughly 1 million people to move, leaving the metro area frozen at the size it had reached by the 1970s.

Some Georgians outside of Atlanta also envision benefits.

"This is a very good opportunity. We can try to secure some manufacturing," said Roy Patel, an officer with Savannah real-estate developer BPR Properties. "We've got everything a business would need if someone will knock on some doors."

IT might not be that simple. Industry recruiters and the consultants companies hire to find locations say Atlanta's loss isn't necessarily Augusta or Savannah's gain.

"If Atlanta is not going to work from a water standpoint, it doesn't automatically mean that other communities in Georgia will get that investment," said William Hearn, a widely published expert and managing director of Site Dynamics, an international site-selection firm.

First, he says, many companies will eliminate the state from consideration if they think a water shortage disqualifies Atlanta. Second, company requirements might limit them to large cities.

The water issue shouldn't pit one part of Georgia against another, says Harold Reheis, a former director of the state Environmental Protection Division.

"Since we are the economic engine for the state, the pain is going to be all over," he said. "We don't need to be wishing for metro Atlanta's demise thinking it will make the rest of Georgia richer."

GOV. SONNY PERDUE has tried to make that point in a series of meetings with business and civic leaders and ordinary residents.

He has argued that every Georgian has a stake in seeing Atlanta remain economically vibrant. Most industry recruiters in water-rich parts of the state see it the same way.

"I don't see this as being a sort of an 'us against them' situation," said Allen Burns, the executive director of the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center in Brunswick. "Atlanta is a huge drawing card for the state."

The Development Authority of Richmond County hasn't tried to gain from Atlanta's woes when meeting with industrial prospects, Executive Director Walter Sprouse said.

"We haven't changed our marketing strategy to say 'Hey, we have a lot of water,' but we answer their questions when they ask them," he said. Augusta doesn't really compete head-to-head with Atlanta for the same prospects anyway, he added.

The state is appealing Judge Magnuson's ruling; Mr. Perdue is trying to restart negotiations with Mr. Riley and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist; and Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson said his staff has discovered 19 other states -- and possibly more -- that could be hurt by the ruling, providing incentive for them to support action in Congress to change the law to allow withdrawals from Corps of Engineer lakes.

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robaroo
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robaroo 08/17/09 - 05:44 am
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It might become

It might become us-versus-them if Atlanta tries to steal water out of the Savannah an run it through Atlanta.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 08/17/09 - 06:04 am
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If anyone believes one

If anyone believes one million people will move from Atlanta because of this ruling you also probably believe in the bogeyman. If necessary, Congress will pass a law to protect Atlanta.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/17/09 - 07:15 am
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What Riverman is saying is

What Riverman is saying is the most likely scenario. The judge was practically begging Congress to correct the miniscule water allowance for Atlanta from Lanier. The amount was set when the Lake was built, and was never adjusted as Atlanta grew. It's kind of like Avondale Mill never adjusting their water rates little by little.

emanuelgeech
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emanuelgeech 08/17/09 - 07:47 am
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Unchecked, poor planned

Unchecked, poor planned growth for the last 3 decades, no one bothered to build another reservoir. City of Atlanta wastes so much through leaky pipes. So now the lack of urgency is the rest of the states emergency. The rest of the state is tired of paying for the sins of Atlanta.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/17/09 - 07:52 am
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Hey, just think about this,

Hey, just think about this, Emanuel. Any water that leaks from an Atlanta water pipe goes right back into the Chattahoochee River by groundwater recharge. It is then available for Alabama and Florida. Likewise, the water that goes down the sink or the shower or the toilet goes right back into the Chattahoochee River. The water does not disappear. It is still available for others to use.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 08/17/09 - 11:38 am
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Dang, LL, I've got to think

Dang, LL, I've got to think about that for a minute. If I drink a glass of water it ends up at the treatment plant eventually. Okay, I get that one. But surely, some disappears. Evaporation, lawns turning green. Trees soaking it up. There have to be other ways, too. No? You really think the river gets all the water back?

TheGeorgian
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TheGeorgian 08/17/09 - 12:57 pm
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Can't we simply annex

Can't we simply annex Tennessee? They shouldn't mind changing images from ridge-runner to gentrified Georgian.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/17/09 - 05:34 pm
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Don't forget, RM, the water

Don't forget, RM, the water that evaporates will RAIN back down into the basin.

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