Georgia left to dry

Brown grass in Athens, Ga., where lawn watering has been banned because of severe drought.


KAI RYSSDAL: The southeastern part of the country is still stuck in its record drought. To help conserve what they do have, environmental officials in Georgia have put limits on most outdoor uses of water. That means come summertime it might be tough to find a place to take a nice refreshing swim. Hot and sweaty constituents are angry constituents, so the state legislature's trying to find a way around those bans to help bathers and businesses alike. Lateef Mungin is a reporter with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Good to have you with us.

LATEEF MUNGIN: Good to be here.

RYSSDAL: Now there is already a ban on outdoor water use in a lot of North Georgia, right?

MUNGIN: Yes there is. There's a ban on outdoor watering, with limited exemptions, in North Georgia.

RYSSDAL: Some of those exemptions are golf courses and the like, but now outdoor pools have come into question?

MUNGIN: Yes they have. Even though we're in the winter now, because you cannot add water to outdoor pools, in effect render the outdoor pools useless during the summer.

RYSSDAL: So what we have here is the Environmental Commissioner of the state of Georgia looking to shut down some of these outdoor pools, but at the same time the business community and lobbying groups are coming in and saying, wait a minute. This is a big industry and you're really going to hurt some companies and some businesses here.

MUNGIN: Exactly, there's been some lobbying behind the scenes because of course businesses that will be affected by this, they've got some legislators interested in their plight, and it's not only the businesses, there's also large numbers of swim leagues that would not be able to do their activity if the pools are banned.

RYSSDAL: Governor Purdue though has been very public about his concern over the water situation. I mean he's met with other governors. They've been in Washington. He's not been shy about saying it's a big, big problem.

MUNGIN: It is, but basically, you know, we need the water for drinking, and that's the ultimate use, so, you know, the governor has to weigh all these things.

RYSSDAL: This ban affects not only large public municipal pools, and not only hotel pools, but does it also affect the outdoor pools that people have in their backyards?

MUNGIN: Exactly, it does.

RYSSDAL: Which then gets to the whole pool guy problem, where people who maintain and fix these pools run out of a livelihood.

MUNGIN: Exactly, and a lot of these businesses are mom and pop's organizations. You know in my report, and I called a lot to see how they were affected, the death toll for them.

RYSSDAL: And so where does this end do you think? The legislators give themselves the power, and if the governor agrees to it what are we going to see? Are we going to see these businesses survive, or are we going to see pools being closed down?

MUNGIN: It's going to be a tough fight. Ultimately the decision's in the hands of our governor. If we get rain, you know, it'll render these decisions moot. We would have to have four consecutive months of rain to be able to get out of this drought, so you know the governor can have four months from now to make this decision. I would say if the bill is passed, then pools will open for the summer, and they'll put the pools within these exemptions.

RYSSDAL: Because it's hot in Georgia in the summertime.

MUNGIN: Exactly, it's very hot here.

RYSSDAL: Lateef Mungin at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Lateef, thanks a lot for your time.

MUNGIN: I really appreciate it.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.


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