Tad Leithead, ARC Chairman. speaks at the BBA on Dec. 20, 2012

Water supply is the most critical issue facing metro Atlanta, the chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission says.

Chairman Tad Leithead spoke at the Buckhead Business Association’s regular meeting on Dec. 20.

“We’re anticipating that Atlanta will grow from 5 1/2 million people to 10 million people in the next 30 years and we know the water resources in Lake Lanier are not adequate,” Leithead said.

The ARC is made up of representatives from 10 counties and strives to tackle problems individual governments can’t solve by themselves, Leithead said.

He said the strategy going forward involves conserving, capturing and controlling local water resources.

Leithead said he speaks often about simple steps to conserve water, like not leaving the water running while brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers. He said the region has made gains on the water conservation front.

But it’s not enough, he said.

“We’re making huge strides in conservation,” Leithead said. “You can’t conserve your way out of a drought.”

Leithead said the state needs to increase its efforts to capture and reuse rainwater.

“In the state of Georgia, 50 trillion gallons of water fall out of the sky every year. We capture 1 trillion,” he said.

The other big challenge on the horizon will be the region’s aging population, he said.

He said the region’s current population of seniors older than 65 will double from 750,000 people to 1.5 million. Leithead said there needs to be more transportation options to give seniors mobility.

Along those lines, he said, plans to expand the Port of Savannah will triple the number of trucks carrying goods on state roads. The problems that will cause won’t have easy fixes, he said.

Leithead spent little time discussing the failed transportation tax referendum. Voters on July 31 rejected the measure that would’ve imposed a 1-cent sales tax to pay for transit. ARC helped to develop the list of transportation projects.

“I just want to finish by saying the 8.5 billion referendum did not pass, a lot of people have questioned whether we are still in a position to work together as a region … my position is it makes it even more important for us to work together as a region,” Leithead said.