Wear Water Wings, Avoid Money Pit
American Rivers’ report – Money Pit: The High Cost and High Risk of Water Supply Reservoirs in the Southeast – couldn’t hit the scene at a better time.
As of July 3, approximately 75 percent of Georgia experiencing some form of “drought.”
There are lingering questions about what the state has learned since the 2007 drought-of-record.
There has been no announcement about the Water Stewardship Act’s required water-loss audit results (due January 1, 2012) or implementation of new plumbing-codes (July 1).
The Supreme Court agrees – by accepting the 11th Circuit Court’s determination – that Lake Lanier is metro Atlanta’s best existing water supply source.
With all of this in mind, Money Pit helps put Georgia’s alleged culture of conservation, real water supply challenges, and common sense solutions in context.
Jenny Hoffner and former Georgia Water Wire contributor Ben Emanuel have pulled out all the stops and produced a report ideally suited for local communities that are weighing new water supply solutions. Money Pit’s message: there are critical economic and environmental risks that are ignored – or hidden – in water resource discussions. As such, communities should avoid expensive and poorly conceived infrastructure boondoggles like Flint River dams that may never fill with water. If Georgians do not reconsider their water supply options, they could collectively waste $10 billion constructing more than a baker’s dozen worth of dams and artificial reservoirs over the next decade.
Instead, communities should “optimize existing water infrastructure first.” For example, fixing leaky pipes can keep existing (or expanded) reservoirs like Lake Lanier fuller and ready for use when we really need them. Communities can also “pursue flexible water supply solutions.” For example, storage reallocation and indirect potable water reuse make better use of existing water supplies and financial resources.
Perhaps the report’s most stunning graphic illustrates a new way to think about predicting water consumption. In short: “growing population does not necessarily equate to growth in water demand.” What? That’s right, since 1967, Seattle Public Utilities’ engineers completed 11 water demand forecasts and have NEVER approached the forecast amount.
The Money Pit report will appeal to local politicians, utility engineers, watershed groups, and water supply entrepreneurs. With evidence from all over the southeast – including Hickory Log (“Underwater with Reservoir Debt”) and Hard Labor (“shovel-ready”) in Georgia, and the Catawba River Water Supply Project on the Carolinas’ border – American Rivers’ report demonstrates that communities should stop throwing good money after the bad on reservoir projects. In short: New water supply reservoirs should be the option of last resort for forward thinking local leaders who are accountable to voters, taxpayers and utility rate payers.
P.S. – In interest of full disclosure, I reviewed Money Pit in draft form.