U.S. Water News Online
ATLANTA -- With drought conditions intensifying across the
Southeast, efforts to conserve water are popping up everywhere --
even at the aquarium.
In the name of conservation, the Georgia Aquarium, home of the
world's largest fish tank, has emptied some of its watery displays.
The downtown Atlanta attraction has drained a lake in an atrium,
turned off a waterfall and nearly emptied a moat at an exhibit,
refilling it with sand.
The aquarium isn't alone. A water salute to retiring pilots at the
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport also has been put on hold.
The efforts are some of the most unusual as the state contends
with one of the worst droughts in its history. Georgia already has
banned virtually all outdoor water use and ordered public water
utilities to cut back water use by 10 percent.
The aquarium also is installing waterless urinals and low-flow
faucets, banning pressure-washing of its building and requiring all
employees and volunteers to take a water-conservation course.
None of the drained exhibits contained fish, aquarium spokeswoman
Meghann Gibbons said. Exhibits with fish continue to operate
normally, she said.
"We've tried to do anything we can internally," said Gibbons. She
estimated that changes at the aquarium will save more than 3 million
gallons a year.
Along with saving water, the measures have had a financial bonus:
Pennies that visitors toss into a pool once brimming with water are
now easily accessible. "And they've been turned in to the bank,"
On a smaller plumbing scale, operators of a northeast Georgia
dental clinic installed two portable toilets in the parking lot last
week to cut down water usage by their staff members.
"People are flushing the toilets pretty regular when you have 30
employees and six or seven doctors," said Bob Fogg, who operates
Athens Family Dental Center with his wife and sister-in-law.
The dentists' patients still get to use the center's regular
The airport has banned its "washdown" salute given to retiring
commercial airline pilots on their final flight to the airport. For
decades, two Atlanta Fire Department trucks would spray an arch of
water to salute the pilot.
However, that display used about 500 gallons of water.
"We're trying to mainly use water for essential firefighting
operations," said Capt. Bill May, a fire department spokesman. "Maybe
if we can get the water supplies back up, we can revisit the
The drought has worsened with sweltering temperatures and a
drier-than-normal hurricane season. Now drought in almost one-third
of the Southeast has been deemed "exceptional" -- the most severe
West Georgia's Paulding County has taken some of the most
aggressive steps so far, restricting watering for landscapers and car
washes that don't recycle and imposing fines on first offenses for
watering violations. The county has also ordered homes and business
to cut water use by 10 percent or face stiffer fees.
"I feel like we're staring ugly in the face," said Jerry Shearin,
Paulding County's commission chairman. "It's a very critical
situation. And we're going to prove to the world we're doing
everything we can to conserve."
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