Monday, December 14, 2009

Water(less) World

Speaking of how taxes are spent, let us look at how metro Atlanta and Georgia handle water resources.

Before this autumn, northern Georgia was suffering from a rather severe drought. This wasn't its first drought, as we went through several while I was in college. This has been going on for years, and yet little has been done in the realm of figuring out how to manage water resources more appropriately. Their latest "attempt" to do so is called the "Water Contingency Task Force" made up of mostly Atlanta business types. Martin Matheny at Beyond the Trestle describes one of the Water & Power's big ideas thusly:

What interbasin transfer means, in simple terms, is that a region that needs water, say Atlanta, finds a place that has water, say Lake Hartwell, and starts piping water out to fill their own needs. Right now, interbasin transfer is illegal. It needs to stay that way, because if it becomes allowable, every lake, river, stream, and puddle in Georgia is fair game to satiate Atlanta's thirst.

Your tax dollars at work. The rest of Georgia is responsible for subsidizing metro Atlanta's subpar urban, suburban and exurban planning.

Because that is far simpler than "Instead of building a reservoir, spend less, create more jobs, and fix the pipes."

Two thoughts:

One, hopefully the real estate bubble bursting taught metro Atlanta developers a thing or three about overbuilding, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that.

Two, we must figure out a way to pump New Orleans' water to metro Atlanta and charge those business types by the gallon.



Dante said...

Pat, what in the hell are you doing? Get with the program. We're getting sufficient rainfall right now. We're supposed to be ignoring the water problem until the next drought. You can't ignore a problem if you keep talking about it. I suggest you either remove this post or at least close down comments on it lest we actually think about a problem before it becomes an emergency.

But since YOU brought it up, I'll sneak in $.02. If the recent federal water ruling actually holds up, it's going to be very tough for Atlanta to meet its water needs. I'm really interested to see how the political dynamic works out. Given that so many of Georgia's Congressional seats are held by members of a minority party, what sort of logrolling will have to happen for them to get their way? And I assume that's the only option the state is considering given the bad blood among all the border states invloved.

But as far as overbuilding, most of that new construction is occupied. That's not overbuilding. It's just building. There are examples of empty subdivisions/shopping centers/industrial parks/etc but they are very much the minority in metro Atlanta. There are no Detroit $1 houses here. The only people who can't move property are the ones who are too stubborn to realize current market values. And in a very telling sign, by and large banks are paying to finish foreclosed construction and selling finished products instead of cutting their losses and selling off half-built remnants.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I think the political angle on this will be overstated since the Congressional split is Dems 6 - GOP 7. I think the ruling is more about focing Georgia to settle with Alabama and Florida, perhaps paying more for water used over a certain amount.

As for overbuilding, when I was up for Thanksgiving, I had the experience of driving from Marietta across GA120 to I-85 northbound, and I saw a lot of empty real estate in low(er) density areas. That means many more lawns to water, hundreds of extra miles of pipes to run, thousands of acres of unshaded parking lots and highways and millions of pounds of additional trash. All of these factor into water waste.

It isn't just the number of people in an area that draws on the water supply, it is also how those communities are developed and managed.