Water wars may be calmed, but future remains uncertain

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — It’s a bit early to begin celebrating the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling over who controls water from Lake Lanier, but it’s not bad news, by any means.

Last month, the Supreme Court refused to review the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that allowed water to flow from Lake Lanier.

The decision will likely be locked in litigation and appeals for the next 10 years and with that, it will prolong the tri-state water wars between Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

The decision ultimately empowered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ ability to exercise its authority to control Lake Lanier’s water use and provide Atlanta with the water it needs.

The decision also brings relief to state officials, who see water as a means to spur economic development projects and plans for continued growth in the metro region.

Still, a decision on who controls the water and how much water will flow out of the state is still in question.

The tri-state governors will still have to find common ground on water allocations. Those discussions will likely be political in nature and the corps will have to step in and take charge.

A reminder of recent drought conditions on the lake will have the corps hopefully erring on the conservation side.

Litigations and associated costs have gone on for more than 22 years, fighting over who has the rights to water in the Chattahoochee River basin south of Atlanta. Many critics say the money could have been instead invested on securing new reservoirs to serve the area.

Judson Turner, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, said in news reports that the state will continue to examine other possible expansions of the metro area’s drinking water supply, including new reservoirs and ground water sources as well as conservation.