Mike Klein Online

Who Gets to Drink the Water? Tri-State War Gets March Court Date

Mike Klein

Georgia, Alabama and Florida are going back to court to argue about water.  Again.  Book this date onto the calendar:  Wednesday, March 9 at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Georgia will ask the three-judge panel to overturn a 2009 ruling that metropolitan Atlanta is not entitled to use the Lake Lanier federal reservoir as its primary water supply.  U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled the Army Corps of Engineers should have obtained Congressional approval decades ago before it allowed withdrawals for the Atlanta metro region.

Magnuson provided a window until July 2012 for Georgia, Alabama and Florida to agree on water allocation.  Consequences, should they fail to agree, could include allocation imposed by Congress and the possibility Lanier water withdrawals for metro Atlanta would be drastically reduced.

Lake Lanier -- North Georgia's Largest Reservoir

North Georgia’s economy will be severely harmed – perhaps crippled is the better word — without sufficient water.  Millions of people and businesses depend on Lanier water.  Lake Allatoona, the region’s other federal reservoir, serves the northwest metro sector.

Georgia saw two other significant water policy developments this week.

On Tuesday, Governor Nathan Deal announced a new water supply task force that brings six agencies together to assist communities.  Deal’s most detailed water policy remarks to date were made during his first address to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.  Previously Deal said the state will invest $300 million to expand existing supplies and accelerate reservoir planning.

Then on Wednesday the state Department of Natural Resources board approved new interbasin water transfer rules which are a critical part of managing reservoirs.  Restricting transfers would impact current and also future reservoirs. Opponents question how water basin transfers affect the health of rivers, streams and their biological communities.

Georgia has limited natural water beyond the southern aquifer that supports agriculture.  Nearly all water that supports business and populations either falls from the sky or it flows into the state from someplace else.  Lake Lanier is north Georgia’s largest water resource.  Planning began in the late 1940’s. Water storage started in 1956 and filling the 38,000-acre lake took three years.

Georgia, Florida and Alabama began to argue about water more than twenty years ago.

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

January 27, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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