Tennessee Town Has Run Out of Water



The Associated Press reports “As twilight falls over this Tennessee town, Mayor Tony Reames drives up a dusty dirt road to the community’s towering water tank and begins his nightly ritual in front of a rusty metal valve.

With a twist of the wrist, he releases the tank’s meager water supply, and suddenly this sleepy town is alive with activity. Washing machines whir, kitchen sinks fill and showers run.

About three hours later, Reames will return and reverse the process, cutting off water to the town’s 145 residents.

The severe drought tightening like a vise across the Southeast has threatened the water supply of cities large and small, sending politicians scrambling for solutions. But Orme, about 40 miles west of Chattanooga and 150 miles northwest of Atlanta, is a town where the worst-case scenario has already come to pass: The water has run out.

The mighty waterfall that fed the mountain hamlet has been reduced to a trickle, and now the creek running through the center of town is dry.

Three days a week, the volunteer fire chief hops in a 1961 fire truck at 5:30 a.m. – before the school bus blocks the narrow road – and drives a few miles to an Alabama fire hydrant. He meets with another truck from nearby New Hope, Ala. The two drivers make about a dozen runs back and forth, hauling about 20,000 gallons of water from the hydrant to Orme’s tank…”

“…He says the crisis in Orme could serve as a warning to other communities to conserve water before it’s too late.

“I feel for the folks in Atlanta,” he says, his gravelly voice barely rising above the sound of rushing water from the town’s tank. “We can survive. We’re 145 people. You’ve got 4.5 million people down there. What are they going to do? It’s a scary thought…”

Read the rest of the article.

This issue may prove more difficult than oil shortages! I wonder how many more towns will have to run out of water before this becomes the centerpiece of public policy?

Rain barrel anyone?


  1. As Dreyfuss once said, “Well, this is not a boat accident! And it wasn’t any propeller; and it wasn’t any coral reef; and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper!” But for Atlanta, anyway, it wasn’t a shark or the drought either. It was overdevelopment.

    The drought just precipitated the crisis that’s been a long time coming. Atlanta’s been sucking hard on the Flint River Aquifer for years without regard to what sprawl was doing to the water supply.

    “Heavens, we can’t tell developers no. That would interfere with their personal freedom and right to put their land to its ‘highest and best use’.”

    In 1998, I put in a wastewater neutralization system for a lens coating operation in an office park in Alfalfa-retta, north of Atlanta. I asked what the small out-building was at the edge of the parking lot. The Culligan rep told me it was a well house (in an upscale office park!).

    He knew clients (including hospitals) drilling wells all over Atlanta because the Metropolitan Sewer District wouldn’t let people use all the water they wanted (both because of the MSD infrastructure capacity and water source limits, I think). So they were drilling their own wells to get unmetered water.

    I was on the edge of another client’s lawsuit in Buford, GA, in 1999 when Fulton reneged on its water contract to supply the water needed for a new, water-heavy manufacturing operation we helped design.

    The drought is just the straw that’s broken the camel’s back. The Flint River Aquifer has been under strain for a decade as Atlanta keeps growing, the developers keep developing, and the water supply keeps shrinking.

    It was only a matter of time before the taps started running dry. Nobody listens. Nobody cares. Anyone who raises the alarm is an anti-business kook.

    For years, I’ve wondered when we’d start seeing bumper stickers that said, “Suppose they gave a subdivision and nobody came?”

    Maybe soon, now.

  2. Gordon Smith says:

    I was up in Sodom Branch yesterday and saw dried up ponds. A friend of mine told me yesterday that her catfish pond is drying up fast and that the creek next to her home (a spring-fed creek) has been dry for weeks.

  3. What I said about Atlanta.

    From today’s LA Times:

    But experts say the Southeast’s struggles over water resources are far from over.

    “What was not on the table, and what has got to be on the table, is Atlanta’s unrestricted growth and cavalier attitude to water use,” said Sally Bethea, executive director of Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a watchdog group.

    [. . .]

    “Atlanta is a greedy, poorly designed behemoth of a city incapable of hearing the word ‘no’ and dealing with it,” said a recent editorial in the Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times.

    The editorial said Atlanta’s “politicians can’t bring themselves to tell their greedy constituents complaining about the low flows in their toilets this week that perhaps if they didn’t have six bathrooms, it might ease the situation a bit.”

  4. 1. ok most of the world is covert by water we can not run out of water we just have to purify it and move it to where it is needed. we do it with oil. I say now is the best time starting companies filling this emerging need.

    2. to all you big lawn freaks, stop it! Including those good for nothing golf courses.