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To the editor: Use conservative estimates to track future water supply

Jerry Kirkpatrick wrote a good letter last month ("Reservoir needed in south Rockdale," To the editor, Oct. 24). There is no such thing as drought-proofing a community unless you limit the population because water resources are finite.

Those who attended the League of Women Voters forum came away with a good understanding of that finite reality. The lieutenant governor recently said we had 50 inches of rain that needed better management. Of the 50 inches of average rainfall, about 23 inches falls in the winter when the leaves are off the trees. That is the portion of rain that supports the base flow in streams. During spring and summer, the rain that falls is used for evaporation/transpiration by vegetation. Population should be based on the low flow of streams, not some wishful population figures thought up by developers.

The Atlanta Regional Commission's planning paradigm put some wishful population projection out and expects local governments to then find the resources to support that figure. This is an insane way to plan. Rockdale County is told that we can expect double the 80,000 people we now have in about 20 years, so go find more water resources. Where?

There is no other 80-square-mile watershed to exploit. There are only marginal water resources left: putting treated sewerage back into the intake or wells that can produce only a limited amount of water compared to surface water. Science cannot tell us if there is a connection between ground water and base stream flow in the Piedmont because that research hasn't been done. And there is a limited amount of rain that falls from the heavens.

The reality is that all the existing watersheds in Rockdale that might have been used for water supply were examined and were found too small or with no dam sites. Big Haynes is an 85-square-mile watershed as compared with the 25 square miles of Honey Creek. It took 25 years of persistent effort by several administrations to get Big Haynes put into the ARC water supply plan, create an authority to build the reservoir and then put a water treatment plant in place. That 600-acre reservoir is adequate for the population today and a drought that doesn't last too long, past 120 days, with conservation. It certainly won't be adequate for the ARC population figure.

The whole metro area is overbuilt with bad air, not enough water during droughts and constant transportation congestion, yet developers and some politicians still want unlimited growth. If citizens want a good quality of life, they will have to take the government back.

If you want information about what is happening in our watershed, visit the U.S. Geological Survey Web site at http://ga.water.usgs.gov and see the real-time monitoring for Brushy Fork Creek and Big Haynes Creek for inflow into the reservoir and Jack Turner Dam for outflow (one cubic foot per second = 7.5 gallons). And while you are there, read the PDF file on droughts in Georgia from 1900-2000. Then reflect on the finiteness of water and what kind of community you want to live in.

- Elaine Nash

Conyers