Decades-Long Water War Amongst Southern States May Be Near an End

The governors of Georgia, Alabama and Florida announce progress toward a water-sharing plan.

A recent meeting by the governors of Georgia, Alabama and Florida may help break a long-running dispute over how much water the Atlanta region can use and the source for that water.

The governors asked their negotiating teams to work out a water-sharing plan that could be presented to state legislatures for approval early next year following Tuesday’s two-hour meeting, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. No details of the potential agreement were released, and Congress will need to give final approval to any accord.

Tuesday’s action comes on the heels of a Georgia water panel’s findings that the state does not have the time or money to meet a judge’s 2012 deadline for finding new water sources for metro Atlanta. The state’s Water Contingency Task Force said in November that it would take at least eight years and a huge financial investment to replace the water being withdrawn from Lake Lanier — the federal reservoir in northern Georgia that currently supplies most of the region’s water.

In July, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that Georgia communities had been wrongly permitted to withdraw large amounts of water from the reservoir for decades, even though Congress didn’t authorize its construction for that purpose. He imposed a 2012 deadline to reduce withdrawals from the lake to 1970 levels, when the metropolitan population was one-third its current size of 5 million residents.

The water dispute has included a flurry of legal maneuvers among the states, including a long-shot effort by Georgia to rework its border with Tennessee to gain access to the Tennessee River, based on claims that the original border was improperly drawn.

Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Southern Political Reporter

Read more about the water conflict amongst these three states from Circle of Blue.

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