A panel of Atlanta business and government leaders met Dec. 10 at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to discuss the region’s continuing unprecedented water shortage.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Sam Olens, Mayor Shirley Franklin, chamber President Sam Williams, GE Infrastructure CEO John Rice and others talked about the supply and regulatory challenges facing the metro area during the historic drought; usage restrictions and other measures that have been enacted to conserve water; and new ideas that could help the region avoid another similar situation in 2008.

Also participating were Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough, Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional chief James Palmer.

Among the challenges highlighted included federal authorities that have been considered less than helpful in Georgia’s battles with Alabama and Florida over the water in Lake Lanier, Atlanta’s primary drinking source, and the belief by many in rural Georgia that Atlanta wants to leave the rest of the state dry to satisfy its needs.

Beating up on Atlanta has been political bloodsport for decades. But Williams said. “It doesn’t stand up to the facts. Our consumption is a drop in the bucket.”

Williams and others called on the Georgia General Assembly — where rural lawmakers hold great influence — to pass Georgia’s first-ever statewide water plan during the 2008 legislative session. They also praised a proposal by House Speaker Glenn Richardson and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to finance the construction and expansion of new reservoirs across the region.

Meanwhile, while the city of Atlanta claims its water customers have taken to heart water conservation measures, Atlanta is reported not to have met the 10 percent cut in water usage that Gov. Sonny Perdue and Mayor Franklin both have called for.

The city announced on Dec. 3 that through November, Atlantans and the city’s customers in Sandy Springs, Fairburn, Hapeville, Union City, unincorporated Fulton County and in Coweta, Clayton and Fayette counties used 94.18 million gallons of water a day. Last year’s usage for the same period was 105.58, making usage for November 7 percent lower.