Signs over commodes tell the story

“Please flush. Atlanta needs the water.”

In 1981, these words were scrawled over a commode in a public restroom. They reflected this area’s attitude toward the severe drought of that period. It was a completely different era, especially where young Lake Lanier was concerned.

Local pastors prayed for rain if their churches served farmers, but there was no praying for rain on the Capitol steps.

In December of that year, the Chattahoochee River basin was suffering from a drought. The level of Lake Lanier had dropped 19 feet, leaving 59 boat ramps closed to the public. Only eight of those ramps reached the water.

The boat industry and Lanier’s marinas had almost no business, but one of the marina owners said it wasn’t too bad “because it’s a slow time of the year for us.”

A few people purchased metal detectors and looked for treasures on the wide, red dirt stretches that previously had been under water. One man found a gold wedding ring.

This big difference in public reaction can be attributed to many changes. First, the population of Hall County has more than doubled in the 26 years since that record-setting drought. Atlanta’s population in the 13-county metropolitan area has increased 164 percent. The commodes, washing machines, dishwashers, lawn sprinklers and showers used by these masses have tripled the use of water by individuals.

First published in The Times of Gainesville, Georgia; Feb. 2, 2008

© February 2008

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