Federal Judge Declares Atlanta Water Withdrawals Illegal

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a federal judge has given Georgia three years to stop withdrawing water from a federal reservoir, which has been the center of a political and legal battle between Florida, Georgia and Alabama since the early 1990s.

On Friday, July 17, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson issued a ruling that could cut Atlanta’s share of water from Lake Lanier in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River (ACR) system entirely unless Congress can pass a water-sharing bill in the next three years. If Congress fails to pass a bill, the judge said he would order Atlanta’s withdrawals be cut to 1970s use levels.

The ruling was the latest development in a nearly 20-year battle that began when Alabama filed suit in 1990, alleging that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was withdrawing water from the reservoir for Atlanta, which was illegal and harmful to states downstream. Florida later joined the suit, and the proceedings have been put on hold many times as the states’ governors attempted to negotiate deals.

Judge Magnuson ruled that it was illegal for the Corps, which operates Lake Lanier, to draw water from the lake to meet Atlanta’s water demands. The Corps has been making withdrawals on behalf of Atlanta for decades, and Lanier is now the chief source of drinking water for decades.

“The problems faced in the ACF basin will continue to be repeated throughout this county, as population grows and more undeveloped land is developed,” Judge Magnuson said in his ruling. “Only by cooperating, planning and conserving can we avoid the situations that gave rise to this litigation.”

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Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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