Praying for Rain

As most of you know, I moved from Atlanta, Georgia, to Brisbane, Queensland, this past June. Without intending to do so, we also stayed within the same Köppen climate classification group and subdivision: Group C: Temperate/mesothermal climate, Humid Subtropical. World cities in this group include Houston, Milan, Brisbane, Atlanta, Yalta (Ukraine), Porto Alegre (Brazil), and Luodian (China). What’s more, we moved from one drought-stricken city to another. As soon as we got here, “saving water,” “Level 5 restrictions,” and “Dam area catchments” became a regular part of our daily conversations. People here have been madly buying rain water tanks for months…so much so, that there was a shortage of tanks back in July. Huge public works projects are going on so that a large pipe grid can more easily shift water from wetter parts of the region to dryer ones. Households face restrictions based on the number of their occupants. Four-minute showers are the norm. And Level 6 restrictions go into effect next week, which will severely limit the amount of water businesses can use. I have friends involved with both the pipe grid project and the public education campaign for Queensland, and I am impressed how everything is proceeding, despite the fact that the dams are now less than 20% of their capacity.

As I said, I left Atlanta in the middle of a similar drought back in July. The only noticeable sign of the Atlanta drought back then was that people were restricted to watering their lawns at only certain times on certain days. That was it. When I visited in October, those watering restrictions were more severe (although the lawns still looked surprisingly green in my old neighborhood), but nothing else had been done. There was a mild ruckus when the Stone Mountain amusement park announced its plans would proceed for building a snow mountain in August (with temps reaching into the 90s), even though they would be using public water from the county, rather than from the lakes in the park. I also heard the governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, make an impassioned plea that FEMA send water trucks to Atlanta to help out. Lots of blame was put on the federal engineers who control the water at Lake Lanier, the primary reservoir for metro Atlanta, but it’s clear that the lake would run out of water anyway, regardless of whether they stopped releasing any more into the Chattahoochee. In October golf courses were still allowed to water their massive turfs. There was no talk of rain tanks, no public campaign to urge people to conserve their water usage, and no proposed long-term plan to deal with future droughts. Still, Lake Lanier could run out of water in a matter of months, if there isn’t a significant rainfall soon. And Atlanta is now entering the driest part of the year.

Well, Georgia has come up with a plan that I don’t think Queensland has thought about yet—prayer! Yes, the governor gathered a group of people on the steps of the state capitol to pray for rain on Tuesday. Interestingly, he acknowledged that the people of Georgia have been a bit shortsighted:

“We acknowledge our wastefulness. We acknowledge that we haven’t done the things we need to do. Father, forgive us and lead us to honor you as you honor us with the showers of blessing.”

I am convinced that we are going to see increasing problems around the world due to water shortages. Populations in the driest parts of the world have nearly all exceeded their local water capacities, and it’s only going to get worse. Maybe praying can help, but we all should be planning and acting now before the pipes run dry.
UPDATE: I just found this New York Times story about one BIG water user, who says he only recently became aware of the severity of the drought in Atlanta:

ATLANTA, Nov. 14 — A day after Gov. Sonny Perdue asked God to forgive Georgia for being wasteful with its water, county officials in the wealthy suburbs northeast of Atlanta confirmed Wednesday just how profligate one consumer had been.

A homeowner in Marietta, Ga., used 440,000 gallons in September, or about 14,700 gallons a day. By comparison, the average consumption in the United States is about 150 gallons a day per person, and in the Atlanta metropolitan area about 183 gallons.

Month after month during a record-setting drought, the two-story, five-bedroom home owned by that consumer, Chris G. Carlos, a wealthy investor who is a member of one of Atlanta’s most well known and philanthropic families, has topped Cobb County’s list of residential users.

Robert Quigley, a spokesman for the Cobb County Water System, said Mr. Carlos had used an average of 260,000 gallons of water a month for the last year, about twice as much as the consumer next-highest on the county’s list. Mr. Carlos has apparently been using the water not only to flush nine toilets and maintain a swimming pool but also to refresh nearly four acres of lush landscaping around his white-columned, red brick home. click here for the rest of the story...