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Prayers for rain, Senate takes on Supreme Court ruling – all part of Georgia’s water policy issues

Editor’s Note: This is the second of three stories this week that will look at water issues that affect metro Atlanta.

Metro Atlanta probably celebrated too swiftly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year the region may continue to draw drinking water from Lake Lanier.

Though the ruling was rightly portrayed, by Georgians, as a major victory, the battle is far from over. The U.S. Senate toyed with the court’s ruling last month before it adopted omnibus water legislation. Water proposals abound in Georgia – where lakes are full six years after a governor led prayers for rain.

All of this results in water supply remaining one of the region’s major policy questions. Not to be overlooked are neighboring communities, and creatures, who rely on the same sources of water.

Attention to Apalachicola fishing industry touches a nerve among Atlanta water resource leaders

Editor’s Note: This is the first of three stories this week that will look at water issues affecting metro Atlanta.

Maybe it was just the comments about metro Atlanta’s water usage by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. that triggered the outcry.

Or it could have been a story in The New York Times, which ran a few days earlier, on the potential demise of the seafood industry in Apalachicola Bay. One factor cited was a shortage of fresh water entering the bay from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee Flint river system.

Taken separately or collectively, the comments by Kennedy and the Times piece alarmed some business and government leaders involved in the management of metro Atlanta’s water resources. The ruckus reminds that despite full lakes, the region and Georgia are in a pivotal moment concerning long-term water issues.

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Cicadas to pervade eastern U.S., but not Atlanta

All that buzz about locusts descending soon is just that.

The Brood II cicada infestation is starting to emerge as billions of the creatures make their every-17-year appearance. What USA Today and others call “Swarmageddon” is reminiscent of the Biblical plague of locusts.

They aren’t coming here, the experts say, because Atlanta has cut down too many trees and laid down too many parking lots. Our city’s growth has further separated us from what some entomologists call an “amazing natural phenomenon.”

“We’re having a lot of cicada envy right now. A lot of people want to see them again, but here in Georgia, I’m afraid it’s not to going to happen,” said Nancy Hinkle, a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia. “At least not in the vast majority of the state.”

lauren joy edited photo

Time for Georgia to recommit to water conservation and regional plans

By Guest Columnist LAUREN JOY, an associate attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center

In 2011, many Atlantans were relieved by the court determination that water supply was an authorized purpose of Lake Lanier. Despite this “win” for Atlanta in the Tri-State Water Wars, we must continue to treat water supply as an ongoing and important issue for Atlanta and the state.

The “Water Wars” are far from over, and the best step we can take to secure and sustain our state’s water supplies is to improve our statewide water planning efforts.

Chattanooga: Eating our lunch in liveability

When Atlantans look around for other cities to compare theirs with, they think major league all the way. They measure their growth against Houston and Dallas. They travel to Denver and Seattle to find civic inspiration and worry that Charlotte and Nashville are gaining on them.

But as we contemplate the hotter, wetter future we discussed last week, we might be better off taking a look at Chattanooga.

Yes, Chattanooga. Seldom do we think of our neighbor across the Tennessee line as much of a competitor. When they built an aquarium, we just built a bigger one. But for nearly three decades, since a group of civic leaders got together in 1984 and committed themselves to doing something about Chattanooga’s image as the dirtiest city in America, and in the view of some the dullest, they have been eating our lunch on the playing field of liveability.

A future with a lot of ‘Hotlantas’

It’s going to rain, and we’re not just talking about the next couple of days. The news won’t come as much consolation to Georgia farmers struggling through a multi-year drought, but according to the most sophisticated climate model ever attempted for the eastern United States, their problem 44 years from now won’t be lack of rain, but torrential storms and flooding.

And it will be hot, but it may seem hotter in some places than it does in others.

We can begin speculating about such things because of the unprecedented degree of detail in a study conducted by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, published in the Nov. 6 edition of Environmental Research Letters.

Appetite for groupon to farm-to-table cafe shows demand for organic foods

The farm-to-table movement has reached the point in metro Atlanta that today it is attracting buyers in a deal-of-the-day internet coupon.

Sweet Potato Cafe, in Stone Mountain, is offering a half-price deal for brunch, lunch or dinner through groupon.com. Over 100 deals had been sold by mid morning.

Georgia’s movement of sustainable agriculture also marks another milestone: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, has signed on as the keynote speaker of the Farm Rx conference sponsored in February by Georgia Organics.

Regional Business Coalition joins effort to promote rainwater harvesting

The message about the value of rainwater harvesting should reach a broader audience this year.

The Regional Business Council has signed on as a partner with the Southeast Rainwater Harvesting Systems Assoc., a non-profit that promotes the endeavor. The RBC plans to spread the message through the business community, possibly throughs chambers of commerce, as well as the private sector.

“What caught my attention was the significant amount of water we as a region could save through rainwater harvesting,” said Terry Lawler, the RBC’s executive director. “Our organization has the capacity to get this message into the public eye in a way that will be bigger than the volunteer organization can.”

Georgia Rep. Stephanie Benfield to become GreenLaw’s executive director

By Maria Saporta

The environmentally-focused law firm — GreenLaw — has hired a new executive director.

Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, a DeKalb representative of Georgia General Assembly since 1999, will become GreenLaw’s executive on April 9.

The news was announced in an email to GreenLaw’s friends Wednesday by Greg Presmanes, who is chairman of GreenLaw’s board.

“I am so excited that Stephanie will be leading our team forward into its third decade of giving Georgia’s environment its day in court,” Presmanes said.