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Our views: We shouldnt allow the rain to let us forget the seriousness of our water woes
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This spring's onslaught of rain has brought with it a threat, and it's not flooding. It's complacency.

With the ground soggy and Lake Lanier slowly but surely easing back toward a respectable shoreline, it's easy to pretend we've dodged a bullet and our water supply concerns are a thing of the past.

But to do so would be foolish, and potentially disastrous.

With experts declaring the drought which has left the area drier than normal for three years to be over, there is a natural tendency to assume that the heavens will once again bless us with rain on a regular basis and all will be right with the world. To do so reflects the sort of overly optimistic short-term thinking that helped to create our regional water woes in the first place.

What many of us - including our elected and appointed government leaders - fail to remember is that the state, especially the multicounty metro Atlanta region, was in a serious bind over water before the most recent drought ever began.
Years of phenomenal growth in the region has resulted in unb
ridled residential development which too often has taken place without adequate attention being paid to basic infrastructure needs. And in areas where the infrastructure is sufficient, the inescapable fact is that too much of the area is dependent upon a single body of water.

Complicating the issue is the reality that despite decades of negotiations and legal wrangling, the "tri-state water wars" putting Georgia, Florida and Alabama at odds over the discharges from Lake Lanier have never been brought to a resolution. The mission of the Corps of Engineers in management of the lake remains poorly defined, despite the fact the dispute between the states is now more than two decades old.

With spring rains washing away the urgency of the most recent drought, government leaders are consumed with handling what they consider to be more pressing economic concerns. The availability of water was not a hot topic in the recently concluded session of the state's legislative body, though there was plenty of discussion of embryos and birthday taxes.

A year ago we were talking about sneaking across the border into Tennessee with a water line, and as legally complicated as the idea seemed, at least it was a point of discussion. Not so this year.

Despite a few tentative steps in the right direction over the past couple of years, Georgia still does not have an aggressive plan in place for building new reservoirs, mandating cutting edge technologies in wastewater treatment, or dealing with the potential of a crippling water crisis in a progressive and proactive manner. Certainly the issue shoots to the top of the leaderboard when drought conditions exist, but it never seems to stay there long enough for sweeping change to take place.

If elected officials at any level are looking at a good return for their investment, water projects could certainly benefit from public economic stimulation funds, but instead the focus for those moneys is in other areas.

As often seems the case in Georgia, issues that demand truly complex solutions don't have the political appeal found in hotter topics, and so are shunted aside to worry about later. Well, it's later, and worrying alone isn't going to solve the problem.

With a cast of characters lining up for a run at the governorship in next year's election, it would be encouraging if just one of them made a detailed water plan for the state a major plank in their campaign platform. But it's hard to get voters excited over availability of a resource they simply take for granted.

Assuming that the nation's currently woeful economic plight is not going to last forever, the time will come when the real estate industry will rebound, local economies will improve, new jobs will be created, and people once again will be drawn to the many positive factors of life in the region.

Thought future growth likely will not come in the same volume as was the case over the past decade or two, it is going to come.

And when it comes to water resources, we aren't ready. In fact, we still have a tendency to deny the seriousness of the issue, restricting water usage only when conditions are dire and even then giving more lip-service than clout to enforcement efforts.

It is human nature that absent the urgency of crisis many of us will resort to old habits when it comes to water usage, leaving behind attempts at conservation that have reduced consumption over the last couple of years. The impetus to push forward with water projects will take a back seat to other, more pressing concerns. The political support that might have come from championing water as a cause will go instead to those who fly the flag for lower taxes, more jobs and economic gains.

That's the nature of the beast. But here are some sobering realities to ponder the next time the skies darken with moisture bearing clouds:

There is no economic issue more important that a safe and plentiful water supply.

There are no easy solutions.

The water crisis existed before the drought, and hasn't gone away because of the rain.


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