Those issues were brought into sharp focus several weeks ago when a federal judge ruled that Lake Lanier, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project, was not built to supply the metropolitan Atlanta area with water, although that has been a de facto use of the impoundment for decades.
Under the terms of the July ruling from Judge Paul Magnuson, the states of Georgia, Alabama and Florida - all of which use water from the Chattahoochee River, which was dammed to create Lake Lanier - have three years to come up with an agreement as to how to parcel out the Chattahoochee's water.
If no agreement is reached by that time, water withdrawals from Lake Lanier will be cut back to 1970s levels. That, in effect, is a death sentence for metropolitan Atlanta, curtailing development in the area. That, in turn, could curtail economic development across Georgia.
Of course, there's nothing like a deadline to focus the mind, and the consequences of missing the deadline in the federal court ruling are simply too draconian for the governor and other state and local leaders to ignore. That said, however, the governor has exhibited some real leadership in working to deal with the high-stakes issue.
Perdue was busy during the month of August briefing people who are likely to be major players in dealing with the federal court ruling, and the broader questions it raises about how Georgia uses its water resources.
First, the governor called in all the candidates in the 2010 governor's race for a briefing on the situation.
Perdue subsequently convened a meeting of a dozen of the state's environmental leaders to update them on the status of what has become known as the "tri-state water war" over the Chattahoochee River.
Most recently, Perdue announced the creation of a task force that will develop water consumption contingency plans. The announcement came in the wake of the state government filing a notice that it will appeal the federal ruling.
Obviously, there are political motivations for the governor's actions in connection with the court ruling. As far as the briefing offered to gubernatorial candidates, it made sense for Perdue to bring all of them "inside the tent," so to speak. In doing so, Perdue lessened the chances that any of the candidates would offer "freelance" proposals for dealing with the ruling and its fallout, proposals that could short-circuit any initiative the lame-duck governor might undertake to deal with the crisis.
Similarly, the meeting with environmental leaders gave Perdue a chance to offer assurances that water conservation, a focal point for those leaders, would be part of the state's response to the ruling.
The governor's most recent action is no less an example of heads-up leadership. It is, in fact, the latest component of what his office has explained is a four-pronged approach to the ruling. In addition to an appeal, that approach includes negotiating with Florida and Alabama, seeking congressional action on the issue and making contingency plans addressing water supply and conservation.
The governor's latest response to the ruling on Lake Lanier is yet another signal of his competent and reasoned approach to that critical issue.