Southeast & Mid-Atlantic US Drought Update

With TeeVee news cameras focused exclusively on the California and Mexico wildfires, the thirsty and parched on the other coast are not going to be forgotten by us. The East Coast and Southeast US drought problems and their potential solutions are much bigger than just "Atlanta," as the following excerpts amply demonstrate. Here are just a few examples of how leaders of government and industry are reacting to the wide, and slow moving crisis that this drought has become.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist fired the latest salvo in the decades old Georgia-Florida-Alabama water war Wednesday evening. He sent a letter to President Bush asking him to deny Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's request for emergency drought relief.

Specifically, Crist wants the President to refuse to alter the amount of water the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases from Lake Lanier, which serves all three states.

Alabama Governor Bob Riley wrote a similar letter to the President earlier this week. He called any reduction in Lake Lanier releases "a radical step that would ignore the vital downstream interests of Alabama."

The Chattahoochee River, which begins its life north of Atlanta, Georgia, flows south and west through Alabama and on through the Florida "panhandle." As we mentioned before, more than just endangered species are at risk from drought before the Chattahoochee discharges into the Gulf of Mexico.In the adjacent, drought-suffering Mid-Atlantic region, government officials and industrial leaders are collaborating to meet shared needs.

Officials from Duke Energy Corp. and other local organizations are scheduled to meet today and discuss possible new steps to reduce water use, as the record-setting drought continues to worsen across the Charlotte metro region and much of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Today's meeting comes in the wake of an announcement Monday by North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, calling on all city and county government bodies to order water use restrictions...

Officials also are suggesting that residents and businesses across the region cut their use of electricity, since Duke Energy's power operations result in a daily evaporational loss of water on the 11 reservoirs used by the company...

Cities, industries, power plants and evaporation are taking more water than rainfall and tributary streams can replace. The utility says usable water storage in the Catawba lakes is at less than 37 percent. It has been dropping steadily since May. The optimum level for this time of year is more than 70 percent. Duke's prognosis: Stage 4 drought status by mid-November to early December if no substantial rain falls. At that point, says the Catawba drought-response plan, usable storage in the reservoirs "can be fully depleted in a matter of weeks or months." Duke manages the Catawba under a federal hydropower license and controls the level of 11 lakes and flow of water with 13 hydroelectric dams.

Two different styles of leadership: blame and complain - versus measure, design, implement, and track results. More of the latter for this crisis please!

In parts of North Carolina, things are looking as dire as in Atlanta, so good leadership is critical.


Sixteen N.C. water systems serving hundreds of thousands of residents -- including Raleigh and Durham -- have regular water supplies of less than 100 days given current conditions, according to a report Tuesday to the State Water Infrastructure Commission. Monroe has an estimated 111 days of water left, as of Oct.

22. Only six systems were in such straits a week ago, said Woody Yonts, chairman of the state's drought advisory council. An additional 80 of the state's 604 local water systems are vulnerable or being closely monitored by state officials.

And over in Durham N.C not quite so bad, but still at risk.

Progress Energy on Tuesday resumed operating the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in Wake County after a 24-day outage for routine refueling.

Shearon Harris shuts down for refueling every 18 months. The outage coincidentally turned out to be a much-needed water conservation measure, saving about 375 million gallons of water that would have evaporated if the power plant had been using water for cooling during normal operations. Water in the plant's cooling source, Harris Lake, has fallen to a new low: 217.2 feet above sea level. That's the lowest since the plant began operating 20 years ago. The previous low was 217.3 feet in 2005.

This is all pretty dreadful stuff, making a lighthearted positive take almost impossible. But here's one. Concern trolls constantly complain that 'solar power only works when the sun shines,' or remind us that 'wind power is only good when the wind blows.' Here's the positive: - and its' a bit of a barb too - solar and wind power don't need cooling water. We're just saying.

Via::11 Alive News, "War Of Words Over Water Heats Up" and The Charlotte Observer, "Officials meet today on drought" and also the Charlotte Observer. Finally, The News Observer., "Water dips at nuclear plant cooling source" Image credit::US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant

Tags: Alabama | Atlanta | Drought | Florida

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