Southern drought: no end in sight

The South is running out of water.

I discovered this after I asked some fellow members of the 9rules community about how they had celebrated Blog Action Day, and one linked to their post on the mess that is the Georgia water table.

I’m clearly losing my edge out here in the Midwest. Ordinarily, the fact that there wasn’t going to be enough water to cool the power plants that run Christmas lights from North Carolina to Florida would not escape my notice. But somehow, I’d heard nothing.

Rob and Heather’s RoseThe last Friday in October, I boarded a plane bound for Raleigh, North Carolina, heading to visit good friends and show my support for the NC State Wolfpack. I’d gotten the weather forecast from my friend and commenter NC Heather – rain all week, but dry for the game. Besides, my friends are not ones to have any kind of shortage of NC State clothing, and that includes a prodigious amount of rain gear. If the rain didn’t stop, I’d be covered.

As the plane ascended, the pilot said something about downpours that were expected to have passed over by the time we landed, and, in fact, North Carolina was soaking wet when I arrived. Out in Rob and Heather’s back yard, all the plants looked luscious and thrilled with the water infusion.

But the newspaper the next morning reminded everyone that water restrictions were still in effect-even with five inches of rainfall in a week, drought conditions still held steady.

This week, the news has continued to be dire. The governor of Georgia has apparently been holding prayer services with the specific request for rain, and he’s going to have a little sit-down with the governors of Florida and Alabama to try to address the problem.

I’m not really sure how you address the problem when you aren’t the sky, but whatever. I wish them luck. In the meantime, according to reports I’ve been reading, there’s a town in Tennessee where the mayor turns on the water for three hours each night, then turns it off.

I know there are gardeners out there who consider it anathema to actually water their plants, preferring instead to let their flowers and vegetables and herbs just roll with whatever weather happens to be in play, whether that be drought or wet conditions. I like to think I wouldn’t be the neighbor sneaking out to water my tomatoes in the dark, but they would be my tomatoes… I just might crack under the pressure.


11 Responses to “Southern drought: no end in sight”

  1. 1 Scott November 15, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    Here in Chattanooga, we’re just as dry as Georgia, but we have a river that runs through town, so we’re not hurting as bad. Still, I didn’t water my garden nearly as much this summer. I rigged up a rain barrel under my gutter spout. Got a lot of rain last night, so it’s full for now…

  2. 2 inadvertentgardener November 16, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Scott, I’ve long thought about instituting a rain barrel policy…but still haven’t done it. That’s a great idea. Hope you guys get more rain!

  3. 3 steven November 16, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Sonny Perdue can pray all he wants, but it isn’t going to fill Lake Lanier. I’ve watched Northern Fulton County and Gwinnett bulldoze and pave over watershed and divert creeks into culverts for the past decade with no clear plan about where the water for all these new homes was going to come from. Growth is good, I have business interests in both counties, but during the real estate boom nobody stopped took the time to even consider a drought. I have a feeling I’m going to be seeing some sad looking landscaping when I go down there next month, not to mention many kitchen table lessons in water conservation and rain harvesting for my niece and nephew.

  4. 4 Buford November 16, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    The water in Lanier doesn’t come from Gwinnett or North Fulton. It comes from further north. But yes, over development is a problem. But the Army Corp of Engineers (you know, the guys that built those New Orleans levees) allowing 2.3 BILLION gallons out a day to help some muscles in Florida need to be stopped. What would those muscles do in a drought with no Lake Lanier?

    Anyway, I’m with Scott. We put in 2 63 gallon rain barrels and they are both full. I’m catching up on some gardening chores because I now have water to use. It’s very easy to do, and even in non-drought conditions, rain water is preferable to hose water.

    And you don’t have to sneak out and water your tomatoes, food gardens are exempt from the water ban. Besides, mine were zapped in the frost last week.

  5. 5 inadvertentgardener November 16, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    Steven, at least you’re passing on the message to the next generation — that’s definitely a good thing.

    Buford, interesting info about the food gardens — I’m trying to remember whenever I’ve lived somewhere with water restrictions, and I don’t remember that specificity about them. Good news for the tomatoes! But I’m glad the rain water barrels are working for you — I definitely need to check those out.

  6. 6 wayne November 16, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    I hope I never have to decide about such a thing as to water or not. At work, I would, for the plants and the students. I have noticed and heard how rain water is better, some barrels are in order…. mosquitoes???? We had the worst drought I can remember 9 or 10 years ago– just before I began to garden at work. It was terrible, many trees lost their leaves in late July. Luckily we have been OK if not wet since then.

  7. 7 Buford November 17, 2007 at 8:25 am

    wayne, I bought rain barrels that were equipped with spigots and a screened top to let water in, but keep mosquitoes out. Here is the site:

    You can also buy them from local sources for less money, but they are not prepped, that is they don’t have spigots or screened tops, you’d have to do that yourself.

    The only problem is getting a delivery system. Right now I’m just lugging the water in pails to where I need it, not ideal, but do able for spot watering.

  8. 8 steven November 17, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Genie, Even though I live on the Great Lakes, I still practice the water conservation tricks I learned as a kid in Marin County, CA. The best one is to keep a bucket(s) in the shower with you to catch the water wasted waiting for hot water. This can be used to flush the toilet or water the plants. It really adds up. I used to harvest my grey water in California as well, all the water from the washer was diverted to hoses in the yard. I’d like to install rain barrels here, but like Buford said, the delivery system needs some brainstorming.

    Buford, The Army Corps of Engineers did some good work back in the day, it just hasn’t been kept up like it should have been. I imagine the flooding from the Chestatee and Chattahoochee was pretty troublesome before the Buford Dam was built. As for the mussels, since they’ve been in the river longer than people have been on the continent they manage to survive pretty well on their own. It probably wasn’t a problem until the dam was built.

  9. 9 blueblue November 18, 2007 at 2:28 am

    I was a bit surprised by the news reports on how bleak it was in some places. It certainly made being able to bucket water three times a week look a little luxurious.

  10. 10 NC Heather November 18, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I must say, my rose bushes dripping with water is a beautiful site and not one we have seen often at all here in Apex, NC. We did have some rain this past week, and more is expected this week. But, I believe the most recent report I saw showed us still 9″ below normal and the city of Raleigh to run out of water the end of January if we do not have significant rain before then.

    I’ve lived in NC for the past 20+ years (ok, there was that side trip to DC for a few of them) and have been through droughts, but I have never seen anything like this. Sadly, I agree with the other posters, over-development in this area is definitely a contributing factor to the water shortage.

  11. 11 inadvertentgardener November 19, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Wayne, you’re lucky it’s been so long since the weather turned on your area like that. I was wondering about the mosquito issue, too.

    Buford, thanks for that link — I’m lazy, and probably will be more likely to get a pre-prepped barrel than one that I have to work on myself…sigh…

    Steven, I’ve thought about trying to recapture that shower water. Do you do that year-round?

    Blueblue, it is pretty bleak…quite scary.

    NC Heather, yeah, over-development is such a huge factor, and even though developers are often supposed to put in mitigating measures, there’s no way to make up for the deficit. I hope you guys get some more rain soon!

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