CommunityPam's House Blend

If people don't stop wasting water…

[Saturday, 10:30 AM: I'm finally back home in Durham after spending the last two days either at BlogWorld, the airport or in the air. Need. Sleep. The item below I wrote a few days ago, but wanted feedback from folks out there who are in drought areas.] 

One town knows what will happen. We're under drought conditions here in NC; while the water problems in Florida, Alabama and Georgia have been making headlines, all folks living in areas that need a ton of rain need to take a look at what is happening in Orme, Tennessee — the taps have run dry. (AP):

The severe drought tightening like a vise across the Southeast has threatened the water supply of cities large and small, sending politicians scrambling for solutions. But Orme, about 40 miles west of Chattanooga and 150 miles northwest of Atlanta, is a town where the worst-case scenario has already come to pass: The water has run out.

The mighty waterfall that fed the mountain hamlet has been reduced to a trickle, and now the creek running through the center of town is dry.

Three days a week, the volunteer fire chief hops in a 1961 fire truck at 5:30 a.m. — before the school bus blocks the narrow road — and drives a few miles to an Alabama fire hydrant. He meets with another truck from nearby New Hope, Ala. The two drivers make about a dozen runs back and forth, hauling about 20,000 gallons of water from the hydrant to Orme's tank.

“I'm not God. I can't make it rain. But I'll get you the water I can get you,” Reames tells residents.

Between 6 and 9 every evening, the town scurries. Residents rush home from their jobs at the carpet factories outside town to turn on washing machines. Mothers start cooking supper. Fathers fill up water jugs. Kids line up to take showers.

“You never get used to it,” says Cheryl Evans, a 55-year-old who has lived in town all her life. “When you're used to having water and you ain't got it, it's strange. I can't tell you how many times I've turned on the faucet before remembering the water's been cut.”

“You have to be in a rush,” she says. “At 6 p.m., I start my supper, turn on my washer, fill all my water jugs, take my shower.”

As I said above, the situations in Florida, Alabama and Georgia are bad — even getting ugly. Water wars have emerged and the governors of those states wanted the feds to intervene.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist previously had fought Georgia's effort to keep more water, arguing that its demands were unreasonable and that reducing river flows could cripple their economies.

On Thursday, they accepted the recommendation, but only as part of continuing negotiations.

…The dispute centers on how much water the Corps of Engineers holds back in federal reservoirs near the head of two river basins in north Georgia that flow south into Florida and Alabama.

The fast-growing Atlanta region relies on the lakes for drinking water. But power plants in Florida and Alabama depend on healthy flows in the rivers, as do farms, commercial fisheries, industrial users and municipalities. The corps also is required to release adequate flows to ensure habitats for species protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Do you know where your water resources come from? Are they shared with other states? I can see the problem getting ugly fast as one community charges another with waste and cuts the tap off.

One controversy here, and I assume it’s true elsewhere, is that the city wanted to require private subdivisions to restrict lawn watering. One news report aired said that some homeowner covenants require people to maintain their lawns (not only height, but quality/color of grass, etc.) and the city apparently cannot force the issue. This is insane.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding