Written by Dave Dalton
This column also appears in the Tuesday, 30 October 2007 issue of the Sentinel student newspaper of Kennesaw State University in the Atlanta metro area.
I have never before seen an issue that would allow me to smack so many people at once! drinkWith the next 871 words I intend to offend, shock, and generally piss off members of both faculty and student body, environmentalists and non-environmentalists, Republican and Democrat, and pretty much everyone else. The topic: water.
If you don’t already realize that Georgia, particularly the metro Atlanta area, is in the midst of a major water shortage , please just ball up the newspaper you’re reading and eat it. You’re too out of touch to matter to me. For the few still reading, the situation is critical, but survivable. We need to take some time in order to figure out how we got to this place so we can avoid coming here again.

Contrary to Sonny’s propaganda machine , the fault for our current situation doesn’t lay with the Corps of Engineers, the Department of Natural Resources, or a few crazy environmental wing-nuts carping on about mussels downstream. The fault, the lion’s share at lease, lies with you. Well, with me too. It lies with all of us, in fact, except maybe the homeless people living in the woods by the interstate.

Americans consume stuff. That’s what we do, and no one hesitates to tell us that while also telling us how bad we are. While we also produce stuff –often with higher efficiencies and profits than the rest of the world- we do tend to be a bit short-sighted about our natural resources –probably as an after effect to having an entire continent full of resources at our disposal for so long. When I shower, luxuriating in the hot, frothy spray of water across my scarred skin as it soothes my aching muscles, it never really dawns on me that I’m using too much water. It doesn’t make me a bad person, but there are millions of us and we’re all wasting water. We can do better. I’ve already started.

As for the rest of the blame, and there is plenty to go around, let us consider the City of Atlanta’s major news source, the Journal and Constitution. It is hard to hear the silence behind the current fever-pitched screeching over water, but the silence is there nonetheless. Our crisis was a known fact more than a year ago, but do you recall hearing much about it? Neither do I. In fact, the only news outlet in the region that has consistently called our collective attention to the issue has been Creative Loafing Atlanta editor, John Sugg. However since it is easy to trivialize Sugg’s brand of hellfire journalism –he tends to go after the truth – no one listened.

Don’t think this column is going to go by without mention of global warming , either. See, global warming is a flashy issue that, because of its global scope , draws lots of attention. Folks have, throughout history, been fascinated with millenarian movements predicting the end of the world. Most of our religions are founded on it, incorporating a transcendent lifeboat for the true believers –but I digress. How much time and energy, not to mention money and expertise, has been spent on global warming, just in Georgia? How many scientists and engineers have wasted their time on the over-inflated crisis while neglecting to consider where the next glass of water was going to come from? Where would we be if that productive energy, that American ingenuity , had been focused on a real problem?

Similarly, every other pet project under the sun has drawn resources and attention away from the water crisis. Sure, it’s gauche to protest the war in Iraq, but shouldn’t we pay just a little attention to the problems at home, too? Maybe some folks ought to go pitch cute little white tents on Turner Field and advertise statistics for the wholesale death and misery that will accompany the loss of our water supply. Of course, that’s a little further to go than the West Deck, and someone might get in trouble out there in the real world.

State and local government should bear some of this burden as well, but probably not in the way you think. Atlanta’s infrastructure is crumbling oatmeal cookie –yes with nuts. A quick trip down I-75 can confirm this fact for the doubters, and while we haven’t dumped any major bridges into the drink yet, we are on the verge of total collapse. As we sway drunkenly on the precipice of disaster, the reasons swim into crystal clarity: the explanation for this across the board failing of infrastructure is the same one in effect right here in KSU’s parking decks: rapid, sustained, uncontrolled growth. Hey, I’m not from Georgia either.

The combination of incentives and natural advantages that caused this growth was a masterstroke for the economy, but the planners apparently didn’t think it important to have naggers on staff to point out other issues. So now we have to play catch-up and the only way to do this, folks, is to generate more State revenue and funnel it all into infrastructure improvement. Anyone who denies this is a bald-faced liar and I will be happy to meet them on the green at dawn with dueling pistols . There is no reason why we can’t build reservoirs and alternate water collection systems to help us weather the next drought, but this kind of massive paradigm shift has to come from the people. It’s just not a sexy enough issue for a politician to run on. Super Gore won’t be making any sexy, factually inaccurate movies about the Georgia drought.

In the meantime, we need to conserve what we have. There are more ways to do this than I could possibly list here, but the general mentality of “waste not, want not ” really needs to sink in. Shut off the water when you brush or shave. Take showers instead of baths, and whenever possible, shower with a friend. Perhaps love can conquer after all –or maybe lust.

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