Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
Georgia Comes Up Dry: Water Rights (and Wars) in the Southeast U.S.

As recently reported in The Wall Street Journal, there’s a new chapter in the southeast U.S. water wars and it is raising questions about whether Atlanta can keep growing during a record drought. As we’ve discussed on this blog previously, Georgia, Alabama and Florida have been suing each other over water for 18 years. Yesterday, a federal appeals court yesterday threw out an agreement that Georgia reached with the Army Corps of Engineers for water rights to a major federal reservoir outside Atlanta, handing Alabama and Florida a major victory in the states’ long-standing water wars. As the article notes:

“…The ruling comes amid tense negotiations among the states’ governors over water sharing during a record drought… The 2003 agreement with the Corps would give Georgia about a quarter of Lake Lanier’s capacity over the coming decades and is the foundation of Georgia’s long-term plans for supplying drinking water to the rapidly growing Atlanta region.

Alabama and Florida challenged the pact, arguing that Georgia doesn’t have any legal right to the federal reservoir, which was initially built for hydropower. The withdrawals would dry up river flows into Alabama and Florida that support smaller municipalities, power plants, commercial fisheries and industrial users like paper mills.

Though a district court had ruled in Georgia’s favor, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington yesterday overturned the decision, saying the agreement constituted a major operational change at the reservoir that requires congressional approval.

“This is the most consequential legal ruling in the 18-year history of the water war, and one of the most important in the history of the state of Alabama,” said Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. “It establishes that the decades-old practice of Atlanta taking more and more water from the federal reservoirs in the Coosa and Chattahoochee rivers without any legal authority to do so will not stand…”

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2008 at 5:09 pm and is filed under United States.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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