Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Water Contingency Task Force Presents Final Recommendations

A statewide task force of business leaders, elected officials, community representatives and conservation organizations presented their final recommendations to Governor Sonny Perdue December 22 for creating a contingency plan to address Georgia’s water issues if a federal judge’s ruling from this summer remains in effect in 2012.

“The task force has done a tremendous job of analyzing all possible options and providing fact-based feedback that will drive the decisions we make moving forward,” said Governor Perdue. “I am very appreciative of the commitment shown by the co-chairs, the time invested by task force members and the professional analysis provided pro bono by The Boston Consulting Group and the rest of the technical team. Their dedication will help us as we move forward to find solutions for Georgia.”

More than 80 business, environmental and government officials have been studying a long list of options since October, after Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that metro Atlanta’s use of Lake Lanier for drinking water would be reduced in 2012.

“We believe in a three part strategy - conserve, capture and control,” said John Brock, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises and co-chair of the Water Contingency Task Force. “There’s no single magic solution. We must conserve more water, capture the water we do receive, and control our water supplies through progressive water policies.”

On a separate track, Governor Perdue is pursuing a legal appeal, congressional action and negotiations with Florida and Alabama. But the job of the Water Contingency Task Force was to consider options if the judge’s ruling stands.

The final report reaffirms the gap cannot be closed between the water we have and the water we need by 2012 under the reduced withdrawals called for in the judge’s ruling. As Governor Perdue has said repeatedly, using Lake Lanier for water supply is our most cost-effective and environmentally friendly option. The thorough analysis of the different options, likely worth more than $2 million, was provided at no cost by The Boston Consulting Group and a team of expert engineering and consulting firms.

The task force found that if given additional time past the 2012 deadline, more options become available. These additional contingency options can be implemented by 2015 and 2020. Emergency solutions are extremely costly, but having a few more years gives more and better choices should the judge’s ruling stand.

The task force found metro Atlanta alone would take a $26 billion annual hit to its economy if no action is taken to address the judge’s ruling, causing a devastating ripple effect throughout Georgia and the Southeast.

“Our work is not over,” said Tim Lowe of Lowe Engineers and co-chair of the Water Contingency Task Force. “In fact, now an even more critical chapter begins. As the Georgia General Assembly convenes in January, we will continue to work with the Governor and elected officials as our recommendations are considered.”

More information and the full report from the Water Contingency Planning Task Force can be found on Governor Perdue’s website at,2096,78006749_154453222,00.html.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

November rain sets records

Tropical Storm Ida brought more wet days to Georgia in November, setting rainfall records in what is normally a dry month.

Rainfall across most of the state was well above normal, according to radar estimates, particularly due to Ida’s heavy rains on Nov. 10. Many areas north of the fall line from Columbus to Augusta received more than 5 inches of rain. Southern Georgia, particularly the southeastern section, received below-normal rainfall, with the lowest values occurring near Brunswick.

The highest monthly total from National Weather Service reporting stations was 6.75 inches in Columbus (2.78 inches above normal). The lowest was in Brunswick at .71 inch (1.78 inches below normal). Atlanta received 5.75 inches (1.65 inches above normal), Macon 3.87 inches (.67 inch above normal), Athens 5.17 inches (1.46 inches above normal), Augusta 5.61 inches (2.93 inches above normal), Savannah 2.31 inches (.09 inch below normal) and Alma 1.41 inches (1.16 inches below normal).

Many stations within the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network also reported wet conditions for the month. The highest monthly totals of 10.80 inches and 10.46 inches were both reported in Rabun County in far northeast Georgia. On Nov. 11 with the passage of Ida, the highest one-day reports of 6.09 inches and 6.10 inches came from two observers in Monroe County in central Georgia.

The Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring sites at Tiger in Rabun County and at Gainesville in Hall County both reported 7.89 inches for the month.

Daily record maximum rainfalls occurred Nov. 10 with Ida. At official NWS airport stations, Atlanta broke a daily maximum rainfall with an observation of 4.05 inches. Athens received 1.94 inches. Columbus received 5.44 inches, and Macon received 2.53 inches during this storm Nov.12. Alma also reported a daily record rainfall of .92 inches Nov. 22.

Because of the unusually high rainfall in September, October and November, Athens, Atlanta, Macon and Columbus airports set their records for the wettest fall seasons ever recorded. Athens reported 24.13 inches, Atlanta 23.31 inches, Columbus 18.43 inches and Macon 20.94 inches during the three-month period.

Temperatures across the state were near normal. In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 53.8 degrees F (.4 degree above normal), in Athens 54.8 degrees (2.1 degrees above normal), Columbus 55.4 degrees (1.3 degrees below normal), Macon 55.6 degrees (.5 degree above normal), Savannah 59.4 degrees (.7 degree above normal), Brunswick 61.7 degrees (.1 degree above normal), Alma 58.3 degrees (2.4 degrees below normal) and Augusta 55.7 degree (1.2 degrees above normal). No temperature records were set in November.

Most of the state had not yet experienced a killing freeze, or temperatures below 28 degrees, by the end of the month.

Georgians did not experience any severe weather in November.

The Department of Natural Resources reported there are more black bears roaming Georgia this year due to both the large acorn crop caused by drought-stressed oak trees in 2008 and the rainy conditions this year, which provided ample vegetation to fatten the bears up. They are predicting a record bear hunting season due to the increase in size and number of bears.

During November, the rains in northern Georgia due to Ida caused problems for farmers trying to harvest hay and other crops. Some grub infestations were reported. In the first and third weeks, dry conditions allowed good progress to be made on harvesting of peanuts, soybeans and cotton. Rain showers benefited the planting of small grains.

By Pam Knox
University of Georgia

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

National Water Expert Provides Case for Metro Atlanta to Pursue Water Conservation and Efficiency to Meet Water Supply Needs

Today, the Georgia Water Coalition hosted a media briefing conference call with Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO, Alliance for Water Efficiency.

To listen to a recording of the media briefing, click here:

The Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) hosted the media briefing for Ms. Dickinson to present the opportunity that Metro Atlanta has to meet much of its water needs through water conservation and efficiency and at a cost significantly less than other options. She offered examples from other metropolitan areas in the Southeast and across the nation where communities have met their water needs through conservation and efficiency and saved millions – in gallons of water and dollars.

On Monday, November 23, consultants for the Governor’s “Water Contingency Task Force” unveiled a list of water supply options for Metro Atlanta and rationale for their implementation. The Task Force’s list currently has a $2.3 billion price tag and includes many proposals that if pursued would place a strain on Georgia taxpayers, threaten the economic future of communities outside Metro Atlanta, and sacrifice the health of our rivers, lakes and streams. Though water conservation and efficiency measures were included in the Task Force options, the Task Force has the opportunity to recommend much greater savings.

Tomorrow, Dec. 11, the Task Force meets in Atlanta for its third and final time and is expected to unveil its findings. The Governor is expected to use recommendations from the Task Force to formulate legislative measures to introduce in the 2010 General Assembly session which begins Jan. 11.

For more information on the opportunities available for Georgia, you can also view the American Rivers report: “Hidden Reservoir: Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast.”

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Millions of Taxpayer Dollars Flow to Bottled Water

/PRNewswire/ -- States in the Northeast have spent between $228,874 and $527,107 a year for bottled water, according to a new report Getting States Off the Bottle released today by Corporate Accountability International. The states surveyed include four Northeastern states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Pennsylvania -- all known for their high quality tap water.

The findings come as public water systems face a $24 billion annual shortfall, and during financial times where states can ill afford to be spending public dollars on such a non-essential use of an essential public resource.

"Not only is the spending patently wasteful at a time when states can not afford unnecessary expenses, but it broadcasts the absolute wrong message about our high quality tap water," said Connecticut State Representative Richard Roy, Chair of the House Environmental Committee.

Roy is one of hundreds of public officials nationwide that are now calling for taxpayer dollars to cease flowing to bottled water. In 2008, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing more than 1,200 mayors, passed a resolution encouraging mayors to phase out city spending on bottled water. To date, more than 100 cities have taken action to cut spending on bottled water or support public water systems as well as three states, including Illinois, Virginia and New York.

Governors and mayors are stewards of public water systems, responsible for overseeing budgets that provide the overwhelming majority of public funding for this essential public service. But the need for greater investment in these systems is growing rapidly, while public funding for these systems languishes.

A major cause of the gap in funding has been the marketing and promotion of bottled water. Marketing campaigns, such as Nestle's Born Better, have convinced one in five people to believe the only place to get clean drinking water is from a bottle. And as public confidence in tap water has waned, so too has the political will to invest in public water.

"Swift action by governors to cut bottled water spending can be a strong first step in restoring public water systems and the public's confidence in them," said Kelle Louaillier, executive director of Corporate Accountability International.

After all, up to forty percent of bottled water sold comes from the same source as tap water. Tap water is also more highly regulated than what comes in the bottle.

Public education campaigns like Think Outside the Bottle are, however, restoring confidence in public water systems. A recent Harris Poll found that 29 percent of people switched from bottled to tap water in the last year. An overall decline in the North American bottled water market reflects this shift. Nevertheless, state action is still lagging. While each state profiled in the report has taken some steps to allocate funding towards water infrastructure -- such as dedicating funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to water systems -- even these steps are a drop in the bucket compared to what will be needed to close the gap.

"During these tough economic times our states need to be thinking, 'we should only spend scarce public dollars on projects that grow the economy at large not just the bottom line for a handful of private corporations,'" said Louaillier. "Investment in public water is, in this respect, one of the wisest investments we can make."

According to a U.S. Conference of Mayors report, every dollar invested in public water generates more than six for the economy at large in the long term.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Georgia, Alabama and Florida Governors to Meet About Water

Governor Sonny Perdue announced December 7 that he will meet with the governors of Alabama and Florida in Montgomery, Alabama on Tuesday, December 15 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time (12:30 p.m. Central time) to discuss the ongoing water dispute between the three states.

The meeting will take place at the Wynfield Estate at the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park in Montgomery.

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