It's not like Athens, Georgia's government didn't prepare for a drought. In fact, most responsible local resource districts have contingency plans in place for what they define as a drought - which is an extended period with no rain that most likely won't happen again the next year. In a column responding to public criticism, the manager of the local unified district described what looks like a competent plan, which is still being "methodically implemented." Yet, the actual drought has gone beyond what had been thought of as a "100-year" event.
The column explains that in 1996, a reservoir was planned and subsequently built as a 90-day backup water supply. A Comprehensive Drought Management Plan was developed by the government, in concert with local businesses in 2000 and updated in 2004. In response to that plan, measures were put into action to reduce water usage by 10%, and then by 20% - with public response hitting those goals in both instances.
None of these decisions were easy. As the governing authority, the mayor and commission were called upon to make difficult community-value decisions to provide for critical community needs. They have held to those decisions despite unwarranted criticism from some sectors of the community. They might be called upon to make even more difficult decisions if the drought continues and a 30 percent or greater sustainable reduction in water use is needed.Now the local government is poised on the verge of implenting what they call "Step F," where "the plan gives first priority for water use to health and public safety; second priority to residential use; and third priority to industrial, commercial and institutional use." In other words, business is going to suffer.
Athens may have been the best prepared community in the drought area, but without rainfall that preparedness may only have bought them a bit more time than their neighbors before the impact lands on livelihoods.