Every large city has a few water intensive industries. Paper making, bottling, and canning are common examples of water intensive manufacturing. Obviously, there are jobs at stake for Atlanta if the plant has to cut back because of a drought-caused water shortage. But, look at the Gatorade plant in the larger regional context, and the overall situation looks...well, "man made crisis" comes to mind as the most apt characterization.
Water is apparently still relatively inexpensive in Atlanta, which lacks a conservation-tiered rate structure; water-intensive landscaping is widespread; and; and it is estimated that leakage from old water supply lines causes an 18% loss in the metro water system.
Weird side-bar:- Apparently a new kind of green lawn service has emerged in response. Always Green Grass Painting paints the lawns of homes and businesses for $250-$700 (see picture above of before/after results). Wonder if that's water-based paint?Looks like this drought crept up on the US Southeast metro areas like Katrina did on New Orleans: it's another 'who'd have guessed this could happen' situation. AccessNorth GA has a story with an insightful quote illustrating this:- "It's amazing that things have come to this," said Ray Wiedman, owner of an Atlanta landscaper business. "Everybody knew the growth was coming. We haven't had a plan for all the people coming here?"
Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that in an Atlanta collar county:- "...15 people have been caught in the middle of the night breaking a watering ban and had their water turned off on the spot and only turned back on after they paid a $25 fine." AJC also reports homeowners in the suburbs can be exempt from outdoor water use restrictions if they have fish in a plastic pond. (But apparently no fines for drinking Gatorade.)
To cap it all off, downstream Alabama is claiming Georgia is taking more than it's fair share of water from another river, the Coosa. Regionally, this the situation looks as if it's going to get more difficult before it gets better.
See also this earlier TH post on radical water conservation measures.