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People living through the drought in the Southeast are trying every solution they can think of. They have tried conservation and negotiation. As we'll hear in this part of the program, Georgia is just one area coping with dry weather. We begin in Atlanta, where people are trying something new. They're looking to the heavens for relief and they're not afraid to ask for it as NPR's Kathy Lohr reports.
KATHY LOHR: On a partly cloudy, warm fall day, hundreds from across the region came to join Governor Sonny Perdue in a prayer service for rain.
(Soundbite of applause)
Governor SONNY PERDUE (Republican, Georgia): And I'm here today to appeal to you and all Georgians and all people who believe in the power of prayer to ask God to shower our state, our region, our nation with the blessings of water.
LOHR: Governor Perdue, a Baptist, said people here have not done all they can to conserve and manage the state's resources. Three Protestant ministers also spoke to the crowd of young and old, black and white. Many here are serious about the effect they believe prayer can have, including Carla Clarke(ph) and her pastor David Harris from Cumming, Georgia.
Ms. CARLA CLARKE (Resident, Cumming, Georgia): There's no doubt in our minds. We came prepared with our umbrellas because we fully expected the heavens to open.
Mr. DAVID HARRIS (Pastor): And I appreciate what our governor said, too, that we've not been good stewards and, Lord, we've not done our best. And we're trying to correct that now, but we need devine intervention. We need your help.
LOHR: The governor has been focused on the drought for weeks. Last month, Perdue declared a state of emergency in much of Georgia. He called for conservation. He met with governors of Alabama and Florida in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago. And he sued the Corps of Engineers to reduce the amount of water flowing south into those states.
(Soundbite of water flowing)
LOHR: About an hour and a half north of Atlanta at Six Mile Creek, the level of Lake Lanier appears alarmingly low. The lake is more than 16 feet below what's considered full. Huge chunks of red clay are exposed. Trees jut out from the water. And the boat ramp now sits several feet above the water level.
Mr. WILTON ROOKS (Executive Director, Lake Lanier Association): Some businesses is already have closed.
LOHR: Wilton Rooks with the Lake Lanier Association is concerned about the $5billion economy that's connected to the lake.
Mr. ROOKS: The Corps is predicting that or projecting in a way that the lake will be at 1,049 feet by the first week in December. That will set a new all-time record low for the lake.
LOHR: That's a level not seen here since this reservoir and lake were built and filled back in the 1950s. Others are concerned about agriculture and drinking water. One small Tennessee town is getting water shipped in and many who rely on wealth are concerned that they are running low too.
Georgia State Climatologist David Stooksbury says the problem is that much of the state and parts of the Southeast haven't had normal rainfall for 18 months. Some areas are as much as 40 inches below normal.
Professor DAVID STOOKSBURY (State Climatologist; Engineering and Atmospheric Sciences, College Of Agricultural And Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia): We're seeing reservoirs all over the Southeast start to reach critical levels. And not just in Georgia, but we're seeing them in Tennessee and Alabama, and the Carolinas. And, you know, the longer a drought continues, the more impacts we're going to see. So this does not bode well for folks in the Southeast.
LOHR: Many say it's going to take more than prayers to turn things around. They suggest it's time for the Southeast to do a better job of planning, conserving and managing the water it has.
Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.
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