Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Southern Water, Southern Power

Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politics of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 320
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Southern Water, Southern Power
    Book Description:

    Why has the American South--a place with abundant rainfall--become embroiled in intrastate wars over water? Why did unpredictable flooding come to characterize southern waterways, and how did a region that seemed so rich in this all-important resource become derailed by drought and the regional squabbling that has tormented the arid American West? To answer these questions, policy expert and historian Christopher Manganiello moves beyond the well-known accounts of flooding in the Mississippi Valley and irrigation in the West to reveal the contested history of southern water. From the New South to the Sun Belt eras, private corporations, public utilities, and political actors made a region-defining trade-off: The South would have cheap energy, but it would be accompanied by persistent water insecurity. Manganiello's compelling environmental history recounts stories of the people and institutions that shaped this exchange and reveals how the use of water and power in the South has been challenged by competition, customers, constituents, and above all, nature itself.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-2330-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION Southern Water, Southern Power
    (pp. 1-20)

    Over the course of three years beginning in 2006, the Southeast faced the worst drought in its history. As rain stopped falling from the sky from northern Alabama to central North Carolina, rivers dried up, and residents of the southeastern part of the United States nervously watched water levels in reservoirs drop dramatically. The lack of rain and diminished river flows so alarmed energy producers and regulators from seven states that representatives from five investor-owned energy companies, five public energy generators, and multiple federal agencies quietly convened at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to discuss how to keep the lights on...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Lowell of the South
    (pp. 21-44)

    After months of planning and recovery from an industrial accident, John Muir began his southern walking tour in late 1867 at an unusual and critical turning point in the region’s history. Well in advance of his betterknown and published experiences of his first summer in California’s Sierra Mountains, Muir passed through Georgia in the wake of the American Civil War on his “thousand mile walk” from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico. After arriving in Gainesville, Georgia, Muir spent September 24 “sailing on the Chattahoochee” with an old friend from Indiana. While cruising the “first truly southern stream” he...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Dam Crazy for White Coal in the New South
    (pp. 45-68)

    In his 1932 book,Human Geography of the South: A Study in Regional Resources and Human Adequacy, Rupert Vance declared that “there are two great economic complexes that may be expected to force” states to abandon selfish or provincial attitudes in exchange for regional or national outlooks. Vance’s study provided solutions for building a modern region and challenging long-standing assumptions that the South was a colonial outpost bedeviled by race relations and that it could be nothing more than a poor land inhabited by poor people. Born in Arkansas, Vance contributed to the liberal strain of regionalist analysis at the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 New Deal Big Dam Consensus
    (pp. 69-91)

    The Savannah River valley’s residents were accustomed to the river running dry or high in the twentieth century. Augusta’s factory managers had sent workers home for weeks after shutting down waterpowered operations along the Augusta Canal during previous droughts. And the 1908 flood alone had done enough damage to convince the city government to investigate, finance, and construct an eleven-mile levee to keep the Savannah River’s almost annual flood surges out of the city.¹ Given these past weather events, the prolonged, heavy, and cold rains of September 1929 surely looked threatening to residents of Augusta, Georgia, and Hamburg, South Carolina,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 A Keystone Dam and Georgia’s New Ocean
    (pp. 92-115)

    Dry months and a lack of water left Georgians with a serious problem and grim choices in 1941. Geographic pockets in the American South had rotated from one alleged natural disaster to another like a broken record since the 1920s. And as with previous multiple-year droughts, observers in the 1940s could no longer pass this one off as a drought that only affected farmers. By the spring of 1941, anotherurban droughtthreatened water and electrical consumption in homes, businesses, and factories at the very moment that the nation’s industrial machine mobilized to provide its European Allies with additional war...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Big Dam Backlash Rising in the Sun Belt
    (pp. 116-140)

    When Governor Sonny Perdue (b. 1946) prayed for rain on the state capitol’s steps during Georgia’s deepening drought on November 13, 2007, it was not the first time politics, religion, and water scarcity merged in the Peach State. In the 1950s, drought gripped Georgia for a third time in less than thirty years, and Georgians decided to “Pray for Rain” during the driest year in Georgia history since 1925.¹ In a display of sympathy and well-choreographed publicity, Governor Herman Talmadge (1913–2002) personally led a Sunday service designated as a “day of prayer for rain,” according to one newspaper. As...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Countryside Conservatism and Conservation
    (pp. 141-164)

    “Darkness pressed against the car windows, deep and silent, and I couldn’t help but think I was seeing into the future when much of this land would be buried deep underwater,” Sheriff Will Alexander contemplated while responding to a Jocassee Valley bar brawl in the opening pages of Ron Rash’s novelOne Foot in Eden. At the end of the story, Alexander’s bitter deputy drives out of the same valley “for the last time if I had any say in the matter. I wouldn’t be coming back here to fish or water ski or swim or anything like that. This...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Taken and Delivered: The Chattooga River
    (pp. 165-189)

    After nearly fifty fires burned across northeast Georgia’s mountains on a single weekend in 1976, National Forest Service supervisor Patrick Thomas tried to make sense of the 800 smoldering acres of Rabun County’s public land. With more forest burned in the first two months of 1976 than in the previous two years combined, Thomas linked the recent “fire style protest” to the 1974 creation of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River. Thomas also empathized with the group of local mountain residents allegedly responsible for the fires, noting, “I would think it was a hardship, someone taking away access to a...

  12. EPILOGUE Water and Power
    (pp. 190-204)

    As 2012 came to a close after two dry years, many Georgia water watchers thought the region was poised to return to the dry years of 2007 and 2008. Reservoir levels dropped, and farmers worried once again about the next growing season. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 65 percent of Georgia was somewhere between “severe” and “exceptional” drought in January 2013. Then the rains came much as they had in 2009 after three years of drought. By late April 2013, the drought was officially over—and yet the rains kept coming. In the first six months of 2013, more...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 205-260)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-290)
  15. Index
    (pp. 291-306)