Drought Forces Smaller Alabama Water Systems to Consider Extreme Measures

The Alabama state drought management team met Thursday and discussed contingency plans including the possibility of trucking in water to smaller communities.

At the same time, Alabama Attorney General Troy King and Alabama Power both revealed plans to renew the state's federal lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers.

The irony of meeting on a rainy day isn't lost on the people charged with giving Governor Riley the information he needs. Despite the rainfall, the stark fact remains.

"It's certainly a drought condition that could be the worst we've ever seen," said Alabama Power vice president Willard Bowers.

The latest drought maps show 91 percent of Alabama is in the midst of a severe, extreme or exceptional drought, leaving the state among the hardest hit anywhere.

Because of that, towns like Alexander City are in deep trouble, and individual well owners are looking at deficits so large, they're talking about another way to get water.

"Such as the National Guard, which has some equipment for bringing in tankers - that's non-potable water," said state Office of Water Resources director Brian Atkins.  "Then our other alternative would be looking at bottled water."

The news comes one day after Georgia governor Sonny Perdue announced he will take the Army Corps of Engineers to court to try and stop water releases from Georgia's federally controlled reservoirs.

Thursday, Alabama's attorney general announced his plan to renew a similar 1990 era lawsuit against the Corps, and so did Alabama Power.

"We will be filing amended complaints, based on the current situation and based on developments," said Bowers.

Governor Bob Riley isn't commenting on the latest legal wrangling yet but his press office says he is considering a number of responses and may reveal them Friday.

Back to those severe drought plans.

The drought management team says it's hearing from several small towns in both north and south Alabama that depend on smaller rivers and lakes and even some private landowners whose wells are drying up.

The drought managers aren't quite ready to bring in the National Guard tankers and bottled water, but with a dry winter ahead, they have to make plans.

Florida is also threatening court action against the Army Corps of Engineers, saying it's not getting enough water from northern rivers in Georgia to maintain sea life.

The Corps says it's not likely to increase downstream flows because of Georgia and Alabama's demands.