As a native Southerner, when I think of the south I think of fried okra, collard greens, grits, vine ripe tomatoes, and HUMIDITY. I picture lush green trees and creeks and rivers to cool off in during hot, humid summers. When I think of Atlanta and many parts of North Georgia I think of sprawl.From the moment my parents moved us from North Florida to suburban Atlanta, I understood loud and clear Atlanta’s motto: Grow, Grow, as fast as you can. I watched Alpharetta (a suburb north of Atlanta) turn from cow pastures to strip malls at lightening speed. We griped about traffic and lack of mass transit. We griped about bad air days. I looked at huge swaths of forests turn to manicured grass and thirsty landscaping. I wondered, how long can it possibly last?As Atlanta continued (and still continues) to burst at the seams spilling into Cumming, Dahlonega and splashing against the foothills and mountains of North Georgia. I still ask, how long can it possibly last?With Georgia and much of the southeast in extreme drought conditions, there’s much talk about the Southeast water crisis. Unfortunately there’s one crisis not being discussed fully enough a management crisis. Political leaders in the Atlanta area and across Georgia have watched on (and even shouted words and policies of encouragement) as rapid and unsustainable growth and development spread across North Georgia. Now Georgians and those downstream are facing the consequences. To make matters worse, while lawns across the state go brown, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has resorted to pointing fingers instead of taking real leadership.This drought did not happen overnight and its severity could have been abated by early and effective action instead of last minute ditch efforts. Instead of using this devastating disaster as a learning lesson to help the state prepare for future the Governor has decided to blame the problem on the Army Corps of Engineers. The Endangered Species Act is not, as Governor Perdue has called it, “a tangle of silly and unnecessary bureaucracy.” It is a federal law and an important one. I, for one, am personally embarrassed (and horrified) by Sonny’s bullheadedness. What I do find silly and unnecessary is the “mussel vs man” argument Governor Perdue is desperately clinging to. We cannot allow the Army Corps of Engineers and endangered mussels to become Sonny’s scapegoat for his own failures.Dr. Ron Carroll, an ecologist at the University of Georgia, stated it very well in an Op-Ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Our endangered species are sentinels, like the mine canaries, warning us of growing environmental degradation. Blaming the endangered fish and mussels for our water woes is as silly and misdirected as blaming the sick canary for shutting down the mine.” If Atlantans, Georgians, and Southerners are prudent the “Great Drought of 2007” might help us build our communities in a healthier and more sustainable way. Atlanta’s population has boomed. The metro population has tripled in the past three decades going from 1.6 million to 4.2 million in 2000. The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates that between 2000 and 2030 the area will add another 2.7 million people. Yet no meaningful water plan was adopted.It is time for Georgia and the entire South (Alabama and Florida, you’re included here) to take a close and scrutinizing look at available water supply and current development trends. Let’s not get caught with our pants…errr, reservoirs down again.Stephanie is the Outreach Associate for the GRN’s Healthy Waters Program.