Appalachicola oysters, California drought and Otis Redding

Published: Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 04:30 PM.

“You don’t miss your water …’til your well run dry …” — “You Don’t Miss Your Water” by Otis Redding

  Activating the Keystone Pipeline would provide much needed energy and a boost for our economy through the many high-paying jobs associated with the project. 

That said, the “liquid controversy” of 2014 that has the most telling implications for our future economic health involves not oil, but the availability of potable water. A drought in California has that entire state on a water preservation program, and a spill related to the coal industry in Charleston , West Virginia , has contaminated drinking water for an American capital city of 300,000 people. 

On Jan. 9, a leak at a chemical storage facility spilled 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River and contaminated that city’s water supply. Over six weeks later, there are still concerns that the water is not safe for drinking.  As of this writing, some schools in the Charleston area are still being shut down.  Some 30 years ago I heard someone say that eventually water would be more valuable than oil, and I considered the statement hyperbolic.

Now, not so much.

Consider the oyster industry in Appalachicola, 75 miles southwest of Tallahassee, which for decades has relied on plentiful, fresh water flowing southward from the north Georgia mountains and headwaters from Alabama flowing down into the Appalachicola River. Now that water flow is partially dammed in Lake Lanier , which serves as a primary source for Atlanta . The freshwater needs of the Atlanta metro area have grown exponentially, and the Appalachicola River isn’t what it used to be when it reaches the Gulf. 

And so the oyster industry isn’t what it used to be. A court battle among these three states that dates back 20 years has yet to resolve this problem of regional water rights.

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