When Growth Gobbles Up Water Supplies

The water demand from the fast-growing suburbs outside Savannah have started to threaten local aquifers. Though water restrictions are in place and prices are increasing, the growth continues.

"Until five years ago, it seemed that the breakneck pace of development in Effingham County, a Savannah suburb in southeast Georgia, knew no limits.

But like other fast-growing areas across the country, Effingham had to learn that large-scale expansion often comes at a price. In the county's case, it was the long-term integrity of the vast underground water supply that serves it as well as other major areas in the South.

"The prevalent mentality that natural resources have no end has come to an abrupt halt here," said John A. Henry, chief executive of Effingham's Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Authority. Because overuse of its wells could draw in saltwater, the county can no longer rely solely on the wells for business and residential use, he explained, and it has been buying water from Savannah for the last five years.

As a result, cities in the county have had to spend millions of dollars and expect to spend millions more to try to keep up with growth. Residents' water bills have risen significantly, and yet, the growth continues."

Full Story: When New Building Dries Up Resources

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