An article in USA Today: Thirsting for answers in dry Georgia makes an interesting comparison between the ways drought has been dealt with by authorities in Georgia and in San Diego. Begin with the fact that Georgia is normally a rainy place, while San Diego is a coastal desert. If San Diego can weather a long dry spell, why can't Atlanta?
The story provides some good lessons for adaptation. Atlanta did some stuff wrong:
...a drought that gripped this state from 1998-2002 seemed to sound the clarion call.
The Legislature, worried that fast-growing Atlanta was consuming water at the expense of the rest of the state, created a regional authority to chart a plan to manage the resource.
When a relentless drought hit last year, however, the agency's water-saving recommendations mostly had not been implemented.
...while San Diego did some stuff right:
San Diego - being a chronically dry location - has developed what the article calls "a drought ethic" and has been innovating water-saving practices for years. Its residents are accustomed to conservation. But for Georgia to adapt to a drier future, it will take more than just hoping that the residents change their habits.
Drought had ravaged San Diego, too, but its legacy was far different.
A six-year drought that ended in 1992 prompted conservation measures and other steps that enabled the metropolitan area to add a half-million people without substantially increasing water usage.
Strong, consistent leadership is necessary to create a conservation ethic, and that's been missing here, says environmentalist Sally Bethea, executive director of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a group that seeks to protect Atlanta's prime watershed. "There's been a lot of nice talk, education programs and studies on water conservation," she says. "But I have not seen leaders providing real incentives and regulatory programs that would yield measurable reductions in our use of water."Atlanta's making progress and San Diego is certainly not out of the woods, but one Georgia wag pointed out the reason Georgia hasn't learned from close drought calls in the past.
"Usually about the time everybody is screaming bloody murder, there will come a huge rain," he says. "Ironically, the worst thing that can happen now is to get a heavy rain."