Dixie is not alone. According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, 60.1 percent of the 48 contiguous states is experiencing some form of drought. Looking at it another way, 80 percent of America’s farmland has been affected.
It is the worst drought to hit the country since the 1950s.
Hardest hit have been the Midwest and the Great Plains, America’s breadbasket, and reports are that food prices will soar this winter.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s Lake Lanier is at its lowest level since 2009. Expensive lake houses look out over mud flats. Docks sit high and dry. Recreational boating is limited. And in cities that have been allowed to draw water from the lake, there is talk of rationing.
OK, the lack of recreational boating does not affect people the way a failing corn or wheat crop will, but the drought in Georgia, like the drought in the Mississippi Valley, will have economic consequences — and we all know that economic consequences often expose political failures.
That is what the drought in Georgia appears to be doing.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June in favor of Georgia when it let stand a lower-court decision that the metro Atlanta area could draw drinking water from Lake Lanier, the ruling did not settle issues like reliable river flow downstream for Alabama and Florida. That and other questions will have to be addressed when the U.S. Corps of Engineers presents a water-management plan for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin, which includes Lake Lanier.
That plan is expected to set off a new round of maneuvers and machinations that could tie the states up for years to come.
Meanwhile, Lake Lanier drops lower and lower. As it does, parties who have been told they can draw drinking water from the reservoir are becoming increasingly concerned.
So are parties downstream.
When the Supreme Court handed down its decision last summer, there was a lot of talk about how the logjam had been broken and expectations that serious negotiations could begin.
“We need to get out of the courtroom and into the meeting rooms,” said Sally Bethea, executive director of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. That, she continued, is “where we can work out a water sharing agreement that meets the needs of all users up and down the ACF basin.”
If that has happened, it is one of the best-kept secrets out there.
With no water-sharing agreement, no water-management plan, and no significant rain in the forecast, the water war could heat up again.