Could Atlanta Run Out of Water?

Forwarded news articles of Atlanta’s impeding water shortage filled my email inbox yesterday. I can see why. The thought of a huge city the size of Atlanta running out of water sounds apocalyptic in our age of progress. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had the best attention grabbing article introduction:

“Lake Sidney Lanier, metro Atlanta’s main source of water, has about three months of storage left, according to state and federal officials.

That’s three months before there’s not enough water for more than 3 million metro Atlantans to take showers, flush their toilets and cook. Three months before there’s not enough water in parts of the Chattahoochee River for power plants to make the steam necessary to generate electricity. Three months before part of the river runs dry.”

These trumpets of impending revelation in the article may be a bit much. The official from the City of Atlanta was quoted from other sources as saying there is only enough water storage from Lake Lanier left now to supply the metro region for 121 days. More importantly, he assumed no more rain and no groundwater inflow for his 121 days of storage calculation. This is very conservative. Just as a side note, I would also consider 121 days to be more like 4 months. But, hey that is just me.

Lake Lanier is a small lake for the size of the city it supports. Lake Lanier only has an average depth of 60 feet, covers 38,000 acres and has a storage of 2.5 million acre-feet of water. For comparison purposes, Lake Mead near Las Vegas has a capacity of 28.5 million acre-feet of water.

Regardless of the hype, this drought is reaching historic proportions.
Here is latest drought monitor released today. It does not look good anytime soon.


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2 Comments

  1. Hi,I have been working on Stock Exchange of Visions.org. (http://stockexchangeofvisions.org) It is a video interview project about the future. We asked Vandana Shiva what she thought the future of water usage was, we also asked Al Gore about the future of the environment. It is a great website, why don’t you check it out. Thank youG

  2. I receive 2 calls per week from people living in areas where water shortages have reached crisis levels. Of course by then they are looking for solutions which can be installed in less than 2 weeks which seriously limits the options. It seems like people working in strategic planning for Atlanta should be taking serious steps to test new solutions that will not be quite so controversial for their neighbors. It is a critical breach of public trust for officials not to implement real solutions before the issues become critical. We developed two different technologies either of which could solve the problem in Atlanta. The problem is that they both require fairly extensive capital and produce water that is more expensive than lake or river water. On the other hand it is unreasonable and unethical for Atlanta to expect to take water from their less developed neighbors to support their own economic growth. They need to look at the cost of not having adequate water and put appropriate investments in place to ensure a true long term scalable solution even it requires raising the cost of water now to fund those investments. Our ocean based desalination plant is 100% renewable and would be the ideal solution to Atlanta’s problems. It would require a 250 mile pipeline to deliver the water to Atlanta from the coast but that is no worse that it would be for any other coastal desalination plants. This unit could be installed 10 miles off shore where it is invisible from the shoreline and would be competitive with coastal desalination when 10 years of power costs are factored in. It would produce no greenhouse gas which is a huge improvement over coastal desalination plants that produce millions of pounds per year. The issue is that it will take 3 years and $5 million USD to run medium scale tests sufficiently comprehensive for a municipal utility accept. It would require another 5 years to plan full scale deployment including the pipeline with 3 more years to work through the various EPA regulations. This means that the full scale solution is 13 years out. If the planners in Atlanta want a real solution they need to be investing in technologies like ours now so they have sufficient expertise and confidence to deliver the large scale solution before the problems become critical and they need to implement technologies that will not have a negative impact on the surrounding communities. joe@XDOBS.COM 435-657-2280

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