A path forward in the water wars

Published 8:26 pm Friday, July 27, 2018

Middle Chattahoochee River communities have a stake in the decades long water wars.  And the recent coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision suggests there is an opportunity (“Supreme Court gives Florida another chance in water war against Georgia,” Columbus Ledger, June 27) to find a solution outside of the courtroom.

Now is the time for Alabama, Florida and Georgia to negotiate an interstate compact to divide the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin equitably.  It is time to stop shoveling more good tax-payer dollars after the bad.

With each state electing new governors, the three states can turn to an existing technical solution produced by the ACF Stakeholders — a collaborative group of agricultural, municipal, industrial, environmental, individual and other interests who live, work and use the water resources of the ACF river basin.  Their Sustainable Water Management Plan (2015) offers recommendations to study the feasibility of raising Lake Lanier by two feet, raising West Point’s winter pool and altering operations at other Corps reservoirs to improve water availability throughout the entire ACF basin.

It is also important that Georgians not assume that additional water supply is needed. In fact, the plan did not recommend new reservoirs, tapping the Tennessee River or other big-ticket supply projects. Instead, the plan included a host of conservation and efficiency recommendations for residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural water users.

Nationwide, population has grown in cities while water consumption has declined—including in metropolitan Atlanta.  While water use by the energy industry has declined, agricultural water use is climbing.  If a lasting, robust culture of conservation does not take hold in the cities, businesses and across all economic sectors in the ACF basin, we’ll be back in court again another day.

Henry Jacobs is the Middle Chattahoochee Director with the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper