The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Randy Serraglio, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 396-1143

Study Shows Water Shortages in Southeast United States Are Due to Overpopulation, Likely to Be Repeated


A new study
by Columbia University climate experts has determined that the drought
that caused water shortages in the southeastern United States in 2007
and 2008 was not unprecedented in severity, but in fact a "typical
event." The researchers concluded that the resulting water shortages
were actually due to explosive population growth in the region.

1990 and 2007, the state of Georgia's population leaped from 6.5
million to more than 9.5 million, an increase of nearly 50 percent over
just 17 years. "Despite attempts to blame this water crisis on Mother
Nature, intrusive regulations, or endangered species, this study
clearly identifies the true culprit," said Randy Serraglio,
conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The
culprit is us - a rapidly growing human population with unsustainable
consumption habits."

When Lake Lanier reservoir, the
foundation of Atlanta's water supply, shrank to historic lows in the
midst of the drought, Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue led the charge to
avoid the uncomfortable reality of unsustainable population growth.
Calling the drought "manmade," he sought to halt or severely restrict
water releases from Lake Lanier reservoir, directly threatening
numerous aquatic species downstream, including endangered mussels and
sturgeon. The crisis triggered litigation and inflamed decades-old
tensions into a full-blown water war involving the states of Georgia,
Florida, and Alabama.

"The Columbia research shows
that while the drought was a natural event, the water shortages were
indeed caused by humans," said Serraglio. "This is what happens when
you have a dramatically increasing population relying on the same
limited supply of water. Unfortunately, it is usually other species
that pay the price for our inability to responsibly manage growth and

In July 2009, a federal judge ruled
that Atlanta, where water demand is projected to double over the next
30 years, must find another source of water, and made the following
observation: "Too often, state, local, and even national government
actors do not consider the long-term consequences of their decisions.
Local governments allow unchecked growth because it increases tax
revenue, but these same governments do not sufficiently plan for the
resources such unchecked growth will require. Nor do individual
citizens consider frequently enough their consumption of our scarce
resources, absent a crisis situation...."

"No one
should be lulled into complacency by recent heavy rains in the region,"
said Serraglio. "When the natural cycle of drought returns - as it
certainly will - water shortages will return with it, unless bold steps
are taken to reduce consumption and control population growth."

For more information on the Center's work on overpopulation, go here.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252