Atlanta Forward: Alternative Solutions To Georgia's Water Needs

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ATLANTA,None - An ever expanding metro-Atlanta means Atlanta's needs for a solution to its water needs ticks closer and closer.

"We get 50 inches of water a year, so if we don't solve it, it's our own fault. It's not because we don't have the ability, it's because we don't have the will to do what needs to be done," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Georgia lawmakers are considering a variety solutions, from reservoirs to partnerships with neighboring states. One proposed idea is trading high-speed rail for access to the Tennessee River.

"They need some transportation enhancements, they need better access to the ports, perhaps better access to a larger airport. We need to think outside of the box here," said David Ralston, speaker of the Georgia House.

Some lawmakers have even suggested extending the Georgia border to gain access to the Tennessee River, but Ralston said that would require a battle in court.

"We've had a kinda long standing dispute about the location of the boundary line between Georgia and Tennessee, some have suggested that we should take that matter to court and spend a lot of money litigating it. What I have suggested is that maybe there is a better way," said Ralston.

Talks with Tennessee have yet to start, but Ralston said he would like to start conversations by the end of this year. A more fiscally feasible solution is the conversion of old rock quarries into water storage.

"The use of quarries that are no longer being used as active quarries, they are already there and it would take some work to make sure that the water is already stored in those and is going to be of a quality that can be reused," said Gov. Nathan Deal.

Georgia has an abundance of quarries.

"We've got a lot of rock quarries around this part of the world, we've got Stone Mountain out there and all of the roots of stone mountain, granite, rock quarries exist," said Bob Kerr, a water expert.

Kerr advised Govs. Miller and Barnes on the tri-state water wars with Alabama and Florida and worked with Gov. Perdue his first few months in office.

Kerr said the state should be thinking long-term in finding a solution, even considering the possibility of desalination.

"It's expensive to desalinate water out of the ocean, there is tremendous supply there and technology, if it evolves well enough to do it at a reasonable cost," said Kerr.

The most recent victory in the tri-state water wars, in which Georgia won back rights to use Lake Lanier as a water source, is only one step forward in Georgia's water storage problem.

"There are all sorts of potential solutions, that in and of themselves, each one is not sufficient, but as a suite of solutions, it offers promise," said Kerr.