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 user 2007-10-17 at 11:52:00 am Views: 42
  • #19070

    Drought tightens its grip on US Southeast as communities weigh drastic conservation measures
    Georgia oct 07 – If there is a ground zero for the epic drought that is
    tightening its grip on the southern U.S., it is once-mighty Lake
    Lanier, the Atlanta water source that is now a relative puddle
    surrounded by acres (hectares) of dusty red clay.Tall measuring sticks
    once covered by 12 feet (3.7 meters) of water stand bone dry. “No
    Diving” signs rise from rocks 25 feet (7.6 meters) from the water.
    Crowds of boaters have been replaced by men with metal detectors
    searching the arid lake bed for lost treasure.

    Little rain is in
    the forecast, and without it climatologists say the water source for
    more than 3 million people could run dry in just 90 daysThat dire
    prediction has some towns considering more drastic measures than mere
    lawn-watering bans, including mandatory rationing that would penalize
    homeowners and businesses if they do not reduce water usage.”We’re way
    beyond limiting outdoor water use. We’re talking about indoor water
    use,” said Jeff Knight, an environmental engineer for the college town
    of Athens, 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta, which is
    preparing a last-ditch rationing program as its reservoir dries
    up.”There has to be limits to where government intrudes on someone’s
    life, but we have to impose a penalty on some people,” he added.

    26 percent of the southeastern U.S. is covered by an “exceptional”
    drought – the National Weather Service’s worst drought category. The
    affected area extends like a dark cloud over most of Tennessee, Alabama
    and the northern half of Georgia, as well as parts of North and South
    Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.The only spots in the region not
    suffering from abnormally dry conditions are parts of southern and
    eastern Florida and southeast Georgia.Government forecasters say the
    drought started in parts of Georgia and Alabama in early 2006 and
    spread quickly. Sweltering temperatures and a drier-than-normal
    hurricane season  contributed to the parched landscape.

    Now residents are starting to feel the pinch.
    are being asked to serve water only at a customer’s request, and
    Governor Sonny Perdue has called on Georgians to take shorter showers.
    The state could also impose more limits within the next two weeks,
    possibly restricting water for commercial and industrial users.In North
    Carolina, Governor Mike Easley stopped short of imposing statewide
    water rationing but asked people to stop watering lawns and washing
    cars.”A bit of mud on the car or patches of brown on the lawn must be a
    badge of honor,” Easley said Monday. “It means you are doing the right
    thing for your community and our state.”As conditions worsen, the Army
    Corps of Engineers has become a favorite target of lawmakers in
    Georgia, Florida and Alabama, where the drought has intensified a
    decades-old feud involving how the Corps manages water rights.”I
    particularly am disappointed that the Corps has allowed so much water
    to drain out of our reservoirs, out of our lakes, as they have,” said
    Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a Republican . “It’s not that we haven’t
    had enough water. It’s more a function of allowing so much of it to go
    downstream.”On Friday, Perdue threatened to take legal action if the
    Corps continued to let more water out of a north Georgia water basin
    than it collects. And the president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of
    Commerce said on Monday that businesses could also line up behind a
    legal challenge.”We have an ongoing water crisis in metro Atlanta. And
    it is the biggest and most imminent economic threat to our region,”
    said Sam Williams, the chamber’s president.

    Scientists have
    little reason to hope the drought will ease anytime soon.The Southeast
    Climate Consortium warns that a La Nina weather system is forming,
    which could bring drier and warmer weather for Florida and most parts
    of Alabama and Georgia.”When we need to recharge our water system, this
    is what we don’t want,” said state climatologist David Stooksbury, who
    predicted that it will take months of above-average rainfall to recoup
    the losses.