Atlanta – People hoping to protect the Great Lakes from becoming a Paul Bunyan-sized water cooler for an increasingly thirsty world like to invoke frightening language They say we’d better act fast to build a legal dike around the world’s biggest freshwater system, because wars in the coming decades won’t be fought over oil. They will be fought over water.

It can sound silly, especially in a shore-side city like Milwaukee, where the sun always rises on a horizon of boundless freshwater.

But there is nothing silly about what’s unfolding less than 500 miles south of Lake Michigan. The Southeast is in the midst of a drought so severe some have been putting bowls under their air conditioners to capture the condensation dribble, and cities as big as Atlanta have stared down the prospect of literally running out of drinking water.

It’s got people there thinking about water in a whole new way.

“It’s like having a good wife and she either passes away or leaves you,” said Tony Reames, mayor of Orme, Tenn. “You don’t appreciate her until she’s gone.”

Reames is intimate with that sense of desperation. His little town went dry last fall and had to be rescued by water-toting fire engines.

Fearful of a similar fate for the booming megalopolis of Atlanta, Georgia legislators this winter did what they thought was only rational. They proposed snatching a piece of water-rich Tennessee.

Georgia wants to redraw the state boundary line about a mile north so it might some day poke a pipe into the Tennessee River and inject Atlanta and its surrounding counties with a water fix. The idea is to keep this metro area of 5 million clipping along at a growth rate that has it adding more than 100,000 residents every year. A lot of livelihoods are hitched to that growth, but Tennesseans have no intention of ceding any land to their neighbors to the south.

Two governments tussling over one border rarely bodes well for citizens on either side.   

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