IMAGE: LOW WATER ON LAKE MARTIN
Jay Reeves  /  AP
This view of Alabama's Lake Martin on Aug. 27 shows how low water levels have fallen.
updated 10/1/2007 8:16:16 AM ET 2007-10-01T12:16:16

Officials coping with a severe drought in eastern Alabama and western Georgia have issued sweeping bans on outdoor watering and scrambled to secure a dwindling supply of drinking water to more than 50,000 people.

Divers went into Lake Martin on Friday looking for ways to increase the depth around intake pipes that drain water from the massive lake into the water system for Alexander City, 44 miles northeast of Montgomery on the Georgia line. Lake Martin is the only source of water for the Alexander City system.

"The water is so low the pumps are shutting down on us," said Eugene Mahan, superintendent of water treatment for the system, which provides drinking water to about 50,000 to 60,000 people in east central Alabama, including to about 15,100 residents of Alexander City.

"This is not just about recreation, it's not about washing cars, this is drinking water," Mayor Barbara Young said. "We've got to have some rain."

The yearlong drought has exposed piers around marinas and pulled the shoreline far from lakeside homes.

There was no immediate relief in sight. The forecast for most of the region calls for clear or partly cloudy skies and little or no rain through the middle of next week.

Georgia's top environmental official issued an outdoor watering ban covering parts of north and west Georgia, including Atlanta, after climatologists presented data showing how soaring temperatures and light rainfall have sunk parts of the state into the driest conditions in decades.

The drought has exacerbated a long-standing feud between Georgia, Alabama and Florida over how the Army Corps of Engineers manages water rights. Earlier this month, lawmakers from Alabama and Georgia briefed Army Secretary Pete Geren on the dispute involving one water basin.

"The times we're facing, the nature of our circumstances, are unprecedented," said Carol Couch, director of Georgia's Environmental Protection Division.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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