Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politics of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region

By Christopher J. Manganiello | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
Water and Power

As 2012 came to a close after two dry years, many Georgia water watchers thought the region was poised to return to the dry years of 2007 and 2008. Reservoir levels dropped, and farmers worried once again about the next growing season. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 65 percent of Georgia was somewhere between “severe” and “exceptional” drought in January 2013. Then the rains came much as they had in 2009 after three years of drought. By late April 2013, the drought was officially over—and yet the rains kept coming. In the first six months of 2013, more rain had fallen in many Georgia communities, including the metro Atlanta region, than had dropped from the clouds in all of 2012.

There were consequences of extreme “weather whiplash”—a term coined by climate science writer Andrew Freedman—from drought to flood. A number of earthen dams, some dating back to the 1930s, failed along the Ogeechee River and upstream of Lake Lanier in the Chattahoochee River basin. No lives were lost, but sediment flushed downstream and washed out roads. In the Savannah River basin, the Corps’ three major lakes refilled and began releasing water from flood storage. Neighborhood creeks, community parks and boat ramps, and homes in the Augusta area flooded before and during the subsequent dam releases. And the rain kept falling throughout the summer, leaving many farmers with flooded fields and an expectation for lower yields come harvesttime. Dams, reservoirs, levees, and ponds built long ago worked double-time throughout the drought-flood whiplash period—storing water for consumption, managing floodwaters, and generating electricity—much as they have during past whiplash events.1

Nearly all of the dams and reservoirs conceived by municipal leaders behind the Augusta Canal and levees, Georgia Power executives at Tallulah Falls, Duke Power’s draftsmen in the Carolina upstate, Corps officers in the upper Savannah River valley, U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politics of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region
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