The southeastern U.S. has a population of over 67 million people, including the major metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Washington DC, Tampa-Orlando, and Miami. The three most populous states are Florida (16 million), Georgia (8.1 million), and North Carolina (8 million). The region has experienced significant population growth in the past twenty years, with the region's population growth rate projected to exceed the U.S. average for the next several decades (Hobbs and Stoops 2002).
A wide variety of water resources exist in the region, with hydropower being the largest use and irrigation the largest consumer of freshwater. As population increases across the region, the fastest growing demand for water is for public use and water supply. Water resource problems in the region include eutrophication of reservoirs, industrial and municipal discharge, water quality related to surface mining of coal, sediment runoff from silviculture, and saltwater intrusion. Beyond these location-specific problems, the geographic distribution of water in the region represents one of the largest challenges to water resource planners (Cushman et al. 1980). The amount of natural runoff for the entire region is large, but many of the population centers (Birmingham, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Nashville) are located along inland headwater areas of major rivers (Figure 4). In these inland locations, low-flow problems frequently result from periodic drought. Many of the larger rivers, such as the Alabama, Tombigbee, and Apalachicola, have main stems that pass through lightly populated areas.
Figure 4. Population of the Southeastern United States
Source: Cartography by Doug Gamble; base map from ESRI ArcMap.
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