Tri-State Water Wars (AL, GA, FL)

Lake Lanier: Atlanta's fast-paced growth has over-tapped Lake Lanier, leading to a decades-long water fight with Alabama and Florida.


Photo © Craig Tanner

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Advocating for the Long-Term Health of Two Major River Basins

For almost two decades, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida have been battling over the future allocation of water in two major river basins that cross their borders.  Georgia wants to have enough water to allow metro Atlanta to continue growing, while Alabama and Florida—the downstream users—want enough water flowing for their own economic well-being. The dispute involves several federal agencies, courts and mediators, and its outcome is one of the most important environmental issues in the region today.

Each state has its own concerns about the proper allocation of water:

  • Georgia  As the upstream user, Georgia wants to have enough water to continue growing, particularly in booming metro Atlanta.
  • Alabama  A downstream user, Alabama is concerned that Atlanta’s ever-increasing thirst for water will severely limit its own use of water for power generation, fisheries and other uses.
  • Florida  Another downstream user, Florida wants enough freshwater to reach the Apalachicola Bay to sustain its multi-million dollar shellfish industry.


What’s Being Done

SELC serves on the steering committee of the Tri-State Conservation Coalition, which is keeping close tabs on this issue. We want to ensure that the final outcome protects water quality and quantity in the two basins, which provide habitat for countless species of fish and wildlife, as well as recreation, drinking water and irrigation for millions of Southerners. We submitted a “friend of the court” brief in a federal court proceeding in support of the call from Alabama and Florida for more water flow in the Chattahoochee; the court ruled for the states in early 2008.

The Army Corps of Engineers is now revising its drought contingency plan and water control manuals for both river basins. SELC is thoroughly analyzing and critiquing these revisions as part of the ongoing federal environmental review process.

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