Fighting for Water

Disclaimer:  There will be no references cited here, since, as I’m fond of saying, I’m writing a blog, not a term paper.  So you will have to take my word for it that I’m telling the truth, or else you will have to look it up yourself.  Disclaimer #2:  I’m telling the truth, but some inaccuracies or fuzzy details may seep in unintentionally.

The subject of this blog is the war between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida over the water in what is known as the Chattahoochee/Flint/Appalachicola river system.  This war has been going on for umpty-jillion years (in the South, this means “several” or sometimes, “a few”).  I think in fact that it’s been about 12 years (see:  fuzzy details).  The gist of it is this:  Georgia built a giant dam (Buford Dam) on their end (the Chattahoochee part) which formed Lake Lanier.  This reduced the water flow into the Flint River in Alabama, which flows into the Appalachicola River in Florida, and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico.  The amount of water allowed to flow into the Flint and therefore, the Appalachicola, is controlled by the Corps of Engineers. 

So the states involved have spent years alternately suing each other or the Corps.  It hasn’t reached the Supreme Court yet, but it will.  We have, here in the Southeast, not reached the level of water wars so common in the West, but we are getting there. 

Now we will pause for a moment to consider the following topic, which will tie in later:  Smart Growth.  An oxymoron if there ever was one.  But as online friend Jeff Watson says, he’s a conservative because he has something to conserve.  Ditto Florida.  Beautiful white sand beaches, the Everglades, wildlife of an astonishing variety, terrain which ranges from near-desert to tropical lushness.  So Florida enacted laws to protect all that, which it regularly ignores.  But at least it tried. 

In Georgia, there are apparently no such laws.  The once lovely area my sister lives in (a stone’s throw from Buford Dam), north-northeast of Atlanta, used to be rolling pastures filled with horse barns.  Now it’s filled with Toyota dealerships, Hampton Inns, and Wal-Marts.  And it happened lightning-fast.  (Translation:  About five years, way less than umpty-jillion.)

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming involving water wars.  The real fight is between Georgia and Florida.  Alabama is just kind of stuck in the middle, and generally sides with Florida. (If we don’t get any, they don’t either.)  Georgia’s argument is that it needs the water in Lake Lanier to supply drinking water to Atlanta.  Plus, they say, it’s our water.  It starts here.  Florida says, it’s not your water, it’s our water too.  Florida needs it for the oyster industry, since the fresh water from the Appalachicola flowing into the Gulf creates the perfect breeding ground for oysters. 

The latest in a surprising ruling by some Federal court or another is this:  Georgia may not keep as much water as it wants (needs), because Lake Lanier was not originally created for the purpose of supplying drinking water to Atlanta.  Temporarily, Florida wins.  I’m pretty sure Georgia is suing somebody about it. 

Long ago, Fakename came up with a solution to this problem.  It involves building a very large, electrified fence around Atlanta and its suburbs, which is patrolled by border guards.  No one is allowed inside the fence unless someone already inside dies.  That way, Atlanta can make do with the water it already has.  Fakesister commented that it’s a good thing Fakename is not an elected official.  But in milder form, my solution would work.  Stop development.  If you can’t get water, you can’t build.  As crazy as I may sound, this will in fact be the ultimate resolution.  Georgia will be forced to curb its appetite.  It can either do it on its own terms, or be forced into it by the federal government.  (All you libertarians out there, read and weep.)

This brings me to the concept of urban planning.  My friend Judith has a degree in it, and taught me that in order to get anything done which benefits wildlife or the environment, you have to somehow make the argument that it benefits people.  Thus with the infamous “turtle tunnel” here in Tallahassee.  The argument had to be made that turtles crossing a major highway were hazardous, which is in fact true.  Drivers either swerve to avoid them, or hit them.  Then the turtles in some cases become hard-shelled missiles capable of breaking your windshield (and there were pictures to prove it).

The deal is that most people are not capable of thinking beyond their noses.  They are not capable of grasping how the survival of turtles benefits them.  And they are not capable of understanding how important water is.  Possibly until the day they turn on the faucet and nothing comes out.    Do I sound elitist?  Guilty as charged…because those people have to be protected from themselves. 

Presently I’m reading Jane Goodall’s latest book, “Hope for Animals and Their World”.  Subtitled “How Endangered Species are Being Rescued from the Brink”.  The very first section is about animals who already, in our lifetimes, have become extinct in the wild.  And why should we care? 

Well, most of us will not notice until we go out on the patio and no birds are singing in the back yard (see: Rachel Carson).  Or until we turn on the water faucet and nothing comes out.

31 responses to “Fighting for Water

  1. > make the argument that it benefits people.

    Which effectively translates to: it creates jobs, which means it is all about money. As it was in the beginning, is now and always shall be in America. Amen.

    If you haven’t already, see Avatar. Very “green” movie.

  2. Fakename: Interesting post. Quite apart from environmental issues, the economic and legal issues in water rights (and pollution) are extraordinarily complex and difficult. Even conservatives and libertarians acknowledge that markets do not handle externalities well at all. See:

    Nonetheless, in reading the comment immediately above, I am reminded of Oscar Wilde’s quote, “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of everything.”

  3. Whoops. (A little freudian slip in my quote.) 😉

  4. Only interesting? I am disappointed in myself.

  5. masteroftheuniverse

    Rocky, I caught that slip:)

  6. As Fakename may remember, during the recent drought Fakesister’s SO installed a pair of 250 gallon tanks to catch the roof runoff. This water is used in the greenhouse and birdbath as well as for things like pressure-washing the house.

    We recently discontinued catching the cold water from the shower in a 5-gal bucket before washing ourselves. That water was variously used for plants and toilets. Our sense of urgency has failed to overcome the inconvenience, I suppose.

    Admittedly most folk aren’t taking such steps but I’m doing my small part for “acting locally”.

  7. Fakesister: I salute your conservation efforts — which, incidentally, is how most water is collected on Bermuda — among other places. (I lived in a house where unfortunately the cistern was in the attic and it sprung a leak one night.)

    Doing our fair share, ,embers of the Humbert Clan live according to the “golden” rule: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

  8. Ah–the challenges of plumbing on an island. There was a sign over the toilet at my friend Art’s house on a small island in the Thousand Islands which read: Do not put anything in this toilet unless you’ve eaten it first.

  9. masteroftheuniverse

    Our key is still on septic, and being so low elevation and the sand, our toilets flush really slow.

  10. Have you noticed that Margaret and Helen haven’t posted in over 6 weeks? Have they lost the fire in the belly now that The Decider has slunk off into oblivion?

    And…I can’t find my M & H t-shirt!

  11. I think maybe Helen has been sick…I just discovered she posted yesterday.

  12. “The deal is that most people are not capable of thinking beyond their noses. They are not capable of grasping how the survival of turtles benefits them. ”

    Spoken like an environmental Nazi. Careful Carol Browner and the Whtehouse Gestapo might hear you, and whisk you up to DC.

    All the issues you have touched on are pretty accurate. What should also be pointed out is how critical the St. Joe estuary is to natural habitat of hundreds of animals and how delicate the balance is between man and environment. If the volume of fresh water from the Appalatchicola River were significantly altered the estuary could collapse.

    I heard Goodalls interview on NPR re that book , she is a unique person for sure. The quote that struck me most went something like this “people will listen to you more if you speak with respect, if you threaten or bully them you have already lost their support.”

    Rocky I caught the slip too:)

  13. Another quote I like along that line is,
    “Sometimes we are so busy being clever it is hard to be wise.”

  14. I’m not sure what to make of your comments, pt. You seem to be agreeing with me, but I’m having trouble getting past “environmental Nazi”. Call me overly sensitive.

  15. We can all learn from Jane Goodall is my point.

    I tend to have unending respect for the ballot and people who vote. I sometimes have a short fuse when they are characterized as too stupid to think beyond their noses.

  16. “The deal is that most people are not capable of thinking beyond their noses. They are not capable of grasping how the survival of turtles benefits them. And they are not capable of understanding how important water is. Possibly until the day they turn on the faucet and nothing comes out. Do I sound elitist? Guilty as charged…because those people have to be protected from themselves”

    You see many natives take their state heritage seriously. They don’t feel like they need to be force fed solutions by passers through, who take a look around and start criticizing. If it weren’t for all the Yankees who come here and “protect” us from ourselves we wouldn’t be overdeveloped. And we certainly are capable of understanding the environment and the importance of water.

    What we needed in about 1960 was a law preventing any new citizens from homesteadding and serving in any official capacity as leadership.

  17. Rofl. So now I’m a carpetbagger? Gotta come in and tell the natives how to run their business? Call you overly sensitive now 🙂
    And as for your unending respect for people who vote, would that include Democrats and people who support Obama?

  18. And as for your unending respect for people who vote, would that include Democrats and people who support Obama?


  19. I respect the process, and believe there is no better way. Having given very serious thought to it…there is no better way. Most of the time my opinion loses, and I sometimes cynically think our country got what it wanted and deserved. Even so…not to belabor the point, there is no better alternative.
    Please give my regards to your girlfriend Sarah, who declined to speak at CPAC (which she would have had to do for free) but took $100,000 to speak at the first (and I suspect, last) annual Tea Party convention.
    Just to fan the flame, Keith Olbermann refers to her as the former half-governor of Alaska. As I previously said, when the going gets tough, the tough quit their jobs and go on a book tour.

  20. Fakename2-
    Forgetting about Obermann’s interpretation (just like you should forget about Glenn Beck) , the Tea Party movement is about individual liberty — a bedrock and reason for the historical success of this country.

    On many issues, Sarah Palin is much closer to the “average” American than Obama in their beliefs and values. That’s a fact. And rather than an insult to the “average” American, I view this as a compliment. (Not that I would want to vote for Palin for office.)

  21. I don’t know Rocky. Beck is eminently forgettable. Olbermann not so much.
    My deal with Palin is, Do you want someone average, “just like you”, to run the country?
    I am so amused. Wanna bet? My guess is that Sarah Palin is done. Fifteeen minutes of fame, but she wll never be a serious candidate for anything.

  22. Dems tend to look at the tea party through darkly covered and dismissive lenses. That is proving to be a typically conceited mistake they make every time they win an election.

    The Teaparty is not a republican manifestation, nor is it all illiterate rednecks and crazies. It is a legitimate third party opportunity for the country. It’s OK with me if you too drink the kool aide . Just call it like it is. People are pissed off and using the democratic process to be heard.

    Sarah has got to be laughing at all of the Dems. She is making money because of their fascination and constant PR of her movements. Kind of like a bunch of magpies chirping away at a cobra. They just can’t stop.

    Chirp Chirp girl 🙂 She will be around for a decade at least.


  23. Sarah Palin is like the most disgusting and immaterial creature ever to hit politics in this country. She embarasses me. Case in point: Palin vs. Hillary Clinton? No contest. Cute only goes so far.

  24. Chirp chirp!

  25. Tsk, tsk Fakename. Shame on you!

    You write “Sarah Palin is like the most disgusting and immaterial creature ever to hit politics in this country”

    Hmm. Where’s fakename’s legendary wit? Insight? Astute commentary? Gone AWOL, I’m afraid. All that’s left behind is a tex book example of an ad hominem attack …

    I think Sarah Palin’s values and priorities are exactly right. I don’t think she should (or will ever be) elected to national office, but then neither will 299 million other people, including Hillary Clinton.

  26. Okay, Fakename is not sure anything she ever said was witty, insightful, or astute 🙂 But she must admit that her Palin comment was somewhat beneath her. (Chirp!)
    May I remind Rocky, however, that Hillary Clinton already was elected to national office, as a senator from New York. I could see that happening for Palin as well. I do predict that neither of them will ever be President.

  27. Semantic splitting hairs perhaps, but while a Senator from NY serves in the nation’s capitol, it is not a nationwide elected position as used above.

    The only nationally elected office(s) are President and Vice President.

    Note that Hillary (as Secretary of State) is fourth in Presidential succession — so it’s theoretically possible that she could be President and still never be elected to national office.

  28. As soon as Fakename posted that response she realized her mistake, and was pretty sure you would split that hair 🙂
    But as long as we’re in hair-splitting mode, by your definition it would only be the President who is elected and not the Vice President. While it hasn’t always been the case (Prez and Veep were elected independently), these days it’s the President who is elected and the VP comes along for the ride.

  29. Are you sure that you don’t have that backwards? i.e. perhaps people vote for the vice president and the presidentjust comes along for the ride? 😉

  30. Rocky. Please try not to confuse Fakename. She’s perfectly capable of doing that on her own without your help.
    In the most recent case, Fakename would not have voted for Obama if she was instead voting for Biden and Obama just came along for the ride.

  31. And as for Biden, I think he’s a lot smarter and more committed than he gets credit for, He just isn’t able to communicate it well. And there is the rub. He annoys the hell out of me.

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