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To fight drought, Georgians get creative

A roof, two tanks, and a pump are key tools for one Atlantan's do-it-yourself rain harvesting.

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Even as the state's main reservoir, Lake Lanier, shows a cracked lake bottom, Steve Carr has water splashing out the top of his tanks.

His secret: A roof, two 550-gallon tanks, a pump, a couple of filters, and a little "head pressure" to prime the system.

Mr. Carr, a parts dealer who lives in a track-side industrial warehouse in the Grant Park neighborhood, built one of Atlanta's first personal "rain harvesting" systems.

"Hey, if I can build something like this, anyone can do it," he says.

In the midst of Georgia's most severe drought in 100 years, some state residents like Carr are taking responsibility to supply themselves with water. Many others are changing their behavior to conserve water, including how often they wash clothes, flush toilets, and use faucets, according to a Peach State Poll released Dec. 17. Four in 10 Georgians now say the drought is the most important problem facing the state today.

"People are realizing there are ways of retaining basic lifestyles, but you have to do so with some changes," says David Feldman, a water policy expert at the University of California, Irvine. "And you can't blame the consumer for [the crisis]. The problem is you've got a protracted drought which has exacerbated an existing supply problem that's been festering for decades."

But experts say that the growing number of residents catching water off roofs to use for drinking or irrigation is not merely about personal responsibility but also a sign of simmering distrust in government's ability to supply water in the future.

Critics say a 17-year drought planning project failed to address the region's essential needs. Meanwhile, a water war is ongoing between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, which all use the Chattahoochee River.

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