Is Georgia’s Water at Stake?

Section Editor: Malcolm Green

The prospect of interstate water feuds is no new concept, state rivalries over water have been occurring throughout American history. The latest of which is the intrastate conflict between Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

Recently, Florida has been extraordinary claims of Georgia abusing its water supply and habits that include wasting water. In 2014, the State of Florida brought suit against the State of Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court. Florida is asking the Supreme Court for “equitable apportionment” of the waters in the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers.

These three rivers are aggregated to make up the ACF river basin, a water source which Florida claims Georgia is using with little regard to the impacts of Florida residents. When the case was brought against Georgia, a special master was appointed to investigate the claims and determine their validity.

ACF Water Basin

This Basin has proven to be a profusion of disputes between Georgia and Florida, this is only the latest in a series of water conflicts between states. (Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons)

I recently interviewed Daniel E. Johnson, manager of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, and he provided insight into what Florida would have to prove for their case and how the special master has reported his findings of the case.

“Florida has to provide substantial evidence that Georgia’s water usage has been at the detriment of Florida and its citizens as well as prove that Georgia can take more steps than what has already been done to reduce water usage.”

The evidence for these assertions was to be examined by the special master who maintained that, not only is there little evidence of wrongdoing by Georgia, but that Georgia has taken considerable steps to reduce water usage and utilize the already limited water in a conserved yet sustainable format.

US Court of Federal Claims

The court of Federal Claims is responsible for the Special Master and determining the validity of cases brought before the Supreme Court. (Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons)

The Atlanta Regional Commission and Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District alone, while only two pieces of how Georgia handles its water, have provided routine water projections since 2003 and have new projection for 2050.

Metro Atlanta, one of the largest consumers of Georgia’s water supply, receives 76% of its water from the Chattahoochee and Lake Lanier. Total water use in metro Atlanta decreased by about 15 percent between 2006 and 2009, even though population increased 6 percent.

All this culminates into the possibility of an ensuing case for Florida as diminishing. So why has Florida maintained its stance for over two years?

Well, it initially started when it was found that the oyster industry was not receiving enough freshwater and salt water, which is necessary for oysters to survive. The water for this cultivation comes directly from the ACF river basin, which has been the basis for Florida’s claims.

However, some experts support theories that suggest Florida’s private sector over cultivated the regions where oysters live resulting in lowered populations. Florida also refused to allow the corps of engineers to be a third party in the case, which could potentially serve to expedite the process considering they are the party who has practical control over the dams situated on Lanier and directly regulate river flow.

Metroploitan North Georgia Water Planning District

This organization is only one component in the water crisis planning sector that Georgia has maintained over the past years. (Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons)

When Dr. Engram, a History teacher at Woodstock High school, was asked about the ongoing water war, he reported that “I had no idea there was a water feud. If I could say anything about the situation, I would say that Florida can have the water.”

I and many of those involved in the case are fully aware of how obscure this situation is seen. Many Georgia residents are oblivious that there is even a water war occurring, however, the importance is not to be underestimated.

Georgia’s water disputes, as stated by Mr. Johnson, “have been occurring for over thirty years. This is just one more battle, but we will remain diligent as ever.”

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