Atlanta’s Growing Thirst: Facing Scarcity in a Land of Plenty

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Paul Sabin
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Considering the Southeast’s high average rainfall and verdant landscape, it is difficult to believe that Atlanta, Georgia is currently facing a serious water crisis. Nonetheless, in the past ten years, the city has counted down the days before its water would run out, lost the rights to its primary water source and has declared a state of emergency due to lack of water. This paper illuminates why Atlanta is in its current situation by investigating key moments in Atlanta’s water supply history from the city’s origin to the present day. In addition to the severe droughts that periodically devastate the region, Atlanta’s crisis stems from the city’s failure to value and invest in the management of its water resources. Atlanta has consistently prioritized economic growth and expansion over maintaining a stable supply of water and has often refused to take ownership of its problems, attempting to pass off the blame and responsibility to others. Understanding the intricacies of Atlanta’s poor water management can help reveal how cities create resource scarcity by mismanagement and more importantly, how this may be avoided.