A few years ago, when I was in college in Chattanooga, TN, I remember community leaders talking about how Chattanooga was always competing with Atlanta, GA, to attract businesses.

I never really got it. I mean, Chattanooga's great, and I loved living there. But Atlanta's got the huge airport, the ginormous population, the booming building spree, the pro sports teams. How could Chattanooga really compete with all that?

But it seems the gods are smiling on Chattanooga. Well, at least the water gods:

Chattnooga touts plentiful water

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- First, the mayor wants it known that his water-rich city 118 miles north of drought-stricken Atlanta isn't bragging. Second, though, he wants businesses considering locating in the Southeast to know that his city has an abundance of water, thanks to the Tennessee River.

"We have tremendous water resources," Mayor Ron Littlefield says. "We're not trying to lord it over our neighbors to the south. We don't point to Atlanta and say, 'Atlanta doesn't have water.' But if it's a factor in an industry locating here, we're proud to have it."

Littlefield says officials in Atlanta and other cities have told him they eye the river with envy and would love to have such an asset in their economic development arsenal.

Hey, they don't call it River City for nothing.

More about Chattanooga's winning water ways -- AND HOW THE MAYOR ABSOLUTELY REFUSES TO POINT OUT THAT ATLANTA DOESN'T HAVE ANY WATER -- after the jump.

More from USA Today :

There are no outdoor watering restrictions in Chattanooga. A large fountain near downtown shoots water high into the air. Restaurants serve water without being asked. People can wash their cars when they want. Things are humming at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Contrast that with Atlanta, where virtually all outdoor water use is banned. Officials have warned that the water supply could be exhausted in 80 days. Diners have to request water in restaurants, and some residents stockpile water. The Georgia Aquarium emptied some of its exhibits to conserve water, and the iconic fountain at Centennial Olympic Park has been dry for weeks.

Some here say it all adds up to an edge for Chattanooga over Atlanta in the highly competitive arena of economic development.

J. Ed. Marston, vice president of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, says the city isn't merely trying to capitalize on the "meteorological challenges of other communities" in the region. "We have routinely marketed our water resources as an advantage even before the drought," he says. "We've always understood that water is a tremendous asset for this city."

Marston says that, because of the relatively cheap cost of water and hydroelectric power from the Tennessee River, commercial and residential customers in Chattanooga pay less for water and electricity than customers in Atlanta. Industries that use lots of water in manufacturing look more favorably at Chattanooga, he adds. "It's definitely something the site selection people and business decision makers look at," he says. "Certainly, it gets an enhanced priority in their consideration as they're assessing communities."