Hey James, as it turned out, the leak was simply coming from the pipes
above my water heater, and let the water drip down the middle of the
water heater, out the bottom. When I started catching the water
dripping from teh pipe, there was no more leaking at the bottom. And
so 15 bucks worth of pipe will fix this, instead of 300 or more for a
new water heater. In the event, however, of needing a new heater, I've
decided to go with a 12-year heater. I get a heater replaced if it
goes bad up through 12 years (at least the GE ones at Home Depot are
like this--that's what the HD folks are telling me over the phone).
Plus, you save on the gas bill, so I'd rather shell out an extra 80
bucks or so and get that back over the life of the heater, than save 80
just to get a new one 6 years from now. Anyways, thanks again for the
links. I'm glad I found out the real cause!