Lake Lanier dead pool: a media hoax?

(Update: The blog Atlanta Water Shortage seems to have closed its doors. The url is now occupied by the web host and domain name sleazebags at

Due to time constraints imposed by our annoying day gig, we have to keep this brief. The usually reliable and thoughtful Atlanta Water Shortage folks report that Atlanta may have way more usable water than previously thought. AWS–citing a spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)–says it may be possible that if and when Lake Lanier drops to dead pool level–the zone below 1035 feet–it will be no big deal.

It’s instructive to read the post’s increasingly contradictory and acrimonious comments, if only to grasp how confusing the situation is and how desperate people are for real information. Maybe AWS’s most puzzling statement–also based on the USACE–is that Atlantans are already drinking water from the lake’s bottom (and it’s pretty good!) and that Lake Lanier really doesn’t have a dead pool, anyway.

AWS’s responses to comments indicate that they believe that the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta’s major daily, is sensationalizing to sell more papers, and that their reporter is a clueless idiot (full disclosure: the clueless part is our addition to AWS’s more measured statement):

The AJC reporter has trouble grasping even simple concepts: The use of barges and pumps only applies to people who get their water FROM THE LAKE ABOVE THE DAM such as Cumming, Gainesville and Gwinnett. The AJC is saying/implying that the river will run dry at the dead pool 1035 ASL and that they will need barges and pumps to supply water to Atlanta. This is totally false.’s hit: Sorry, AWS, but after talking to the USACE, you have no more reliable information then you had before. Especially when the source is an official spokesperson who knows nothing about water quality and has no stake in disseminating information that Atlantans might find disturbing.

Also, while we are not experts on all matters lacustrine, we don’t immediately accept the idea that Lake Lanier is somehow exempt from the natural laws that create dead zones below a certain level in large bodies of water. Hard to ummm…swallow.


The most dangerous dam on the planet’s elevator rant: In 1983, Sadam Hussein’s engineers build a gigantic dam on a bed of soft, water-soluble rock and guess what it starts to leak almost immediately and they have to keep injecting a concrete mixture into its base continuously so it doesn’t collapse and after the U.S. invades it leads an effort to fix it which believe it or not fails because of “incompetence” and “oversights” but the U.S. Army Corps of mosul-dam-corps-of-engineer.jpgEngineers is convinced that failure is imminent and have studies to prove it which Iraqui officials who claim the dam is safe reject and so 500,000 inhabitants of Mosul face the prospect of drowning in the mother of all dam catastrophes! pant-pant-pant

If this weren’t a great tragedy in the making there would be so much to laugh about here. Like the nuanced difference of opinion: The USACE calls the Mosul the most dangerous dam in the world and says that it could fail with hugely disastrous results any minute, while Iraquis insist that there is no real danger. We shouldn’t take the USARCE’s word for anything having to do with the safety of dams, but maybe in this case they’re a tad more credible than the Iraquis, who built a huge dam on porous terrain that dissolves on contact with water.

The team is tired and hungry and faces a long commute. Instead of continuing to rant, we’ll let the keeper of a fantastic science-oriented water blog, Hydro-Logic, tell you the whole sordid story. He also offers a lot of links to articles about it, like this one from the NY Times.