Moving Water, Georgia Style

update: After looking again at the news story that triggered this, I’m now not so sure when the Georgia debate happened – maybe years ago? So maybe, other than thematically, this post makes little news sense.

original: Here in the West, moving large quantities of uphill or sometimes out of its basin of origin completely has been a way of life for a century. Out by Parker Dam on the Colorado, for example, giant pumps push the equivalent of an entire Rio Grande up to the west to LA. Another set across the river to the east does the same for Phoenix and Tucson. It’s a commonplace in our arid climate water engineering culture.

That’s done much less in wet climates, because you more often get a river that’s so big you can just grab a bit of it as it flows by and there’s plenty left to flow on downstream for the next city. As a result, the institutional culture associated with ginormous water-moving projects is less common. There’s a reason the nation’s great water movers, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is an exclusively western U.S. institution.

But in Georgia, the water moving conversation is underway, as Atlanta’s grim water future forces the discussion:

“Water resources in Georgia are not where the people are,” said Green, who argued the estimated 62 million gallons a day of water from the Coosa basin the metro area will need as the state’s economic engine in 2030 is less than 10 percent of the river’s flow.

“We need a rational water plan that’s based on fact …and now is not the time to take important tools like interbasin transfers off the table,” he said.


  1. In the east, the amount of freshwater flowing into coatal estuaries is critical. If interbasin transfers upset the balance, the estuaries and saltwater marshes that act as nursuries for the seafood industries will be harmed.

  2. In the nineteenth century this conversation went on in New York City and resulted, among other things, in the construction of the Croton Reservoir and later the current aqueduct and reservoir system.

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