The summer of 2012 saw the most geographically extensive drought in the United States in 50 years. Here in Georgia, the effects of the drought can be seen in the steady drop in water levels in Lake Allatoona and Lake Lanier, the two principal water supply sources for Metropolitan Atlanta. Lake Lanier is at its lowest levels since the severe drought of 2008. As a result of this and other recent history, even in our historically water-rich Southeastern states, there is an increasing awareness that lack of reliable, affordable water supply can threaten quality of life and economic opportunity.
Increasing demands for clean, reliable and affordable water from residents and industry must be addressed by local governments with dwindling budgets. Planners and administrators alike are therefore presented with daunting questions such as, “how much water is needed in the future?”, “where will it come from?”, “how much time, money and other resources are required?” and “how do I know a solution will actually work?”
The traditional approach to increasing water supply often consists of relatively modest conservation measures with a primary focus on increased supply via reservoir development or similar measures, emphasizing highly expensive projects aimed at maximizing reserves, often a decade or more down the road – and placing a financial burden on rate payers for generations to come. Meanwhile, alternative approaches such as conservation, loss control, improved system operations, and a host of other solutions are viewed largely as stopgap measures, if considered at all.
When facing the issues of meeting increasing water demands, municipal decision-makers have more options than they may think. The emerging solutions are as multidisciplinary as the problem, bringing cost-efficiency and a shorter timetable into the equation. Smart Water Grid℠ services provide a comprehensive, solution-neutral decision-making tool that helps water and wastewater planners identify issues, successfully gather and process information and implement cost-effective and sustainable solutions based on the unique demographic, environmental, economic, technical, social, legal and political challenges faced by a particular community. More than a meter or one-size-fits-all tool, the effectiveness of Smart Water Grid℠ services encompasses all areas related to water supply planning and implementation.
Free from bias toward any single solution, application of Smart Water Grid℠ services will identify and evaluate the merits of all possible options relevant to a community’s water supply. By considering all possible options, it maximizes the probability of pursuing the most appropriate, effective and efficient solution (or series of solutions). Our Smart Water Grid℠ services offer Georgia municipalities and planners an innovative and powerful tool to make more realistic, cost-effective and practical decisions to achieving an affordable, reliable water supply.
There is no doubt that Georgia’s municipalities will continue to experience issues related to water supply. As journalist Charles Fishman said in his latest book The Big Thirst, the golden age of water is over; we must move on to a new way of thinking about this very precious resource. The age of a smarter approach to water is now upon us.
This is the first in a series of three articles. The next installment will address how to take advantage of our drought downtime to rethink solutions to our water problems.
Note: Stephen O’Day leads the Environmental and Sustainability practices at Smith, Gambrell, & Russell LLP. He represents the firm as a member of the Smart Water Grid Consortium that was formed in 2012 with William Hall, CEO of NewFields. Smart Water GridSM services embody an innovative, streamlined deployment of technical and legal expertise designed to help communities address the unique challenges that exist in meeting current and future water demand.