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2007 Alabama, Florida, Georgia Water Sharing

 

December, 2007

Holiday rains spare Atlanta from drought record

Thanks to a rainy holiday season, the Atlanta area stayed just above its historical low-water mark for annual rainfall, the National Weather Service reported. With clear skies forecast for Monday, the yearly total Sunday night stood at 31.85 inches -- five hundredths of an inch over the 31.80 recorded in 1954, NWS forecaster Dan Darbe said. "It still holds," Darbe said. "This year is now the second-driest on record." The Atlanta area, which is home to more than 5 million people, typically gets between 50 and 55 inches of rain a year, according to weather service records. CNN_ 12/31/07

Final vote on boards that will develop Georgia water plans set for Jan. 8

Under pressure from environmentalists and local governments, the Georgia Water Policy Council has delayed a decision about the makeup of 12 boards that will develop regional water plans across the state. The delay, announced at Friday's highly anticipated council meeting, places in flux one of the last flashpoints -- the composition of planning districts -- in a proposed statewide water plan as a deadline looms. The panel needs to give its blessing to the plan Jan. 8 and send it to the Legislature for its consideration. Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch told water council members the subcommittee working to put together the boards and the regions they will oversee wasn't ready to unveil its recommendations Friday. Environmentalists, editorialists and local government advocates had all expressed some concern about the layout of the planning regions or questions about who would serve on the boards. Many are alarmed about the boundaries for the measure's proposed water planning districts, which would fall along county lines rather than watersheds. That method of dividing the state, some critics say, could lead to boards making decisions about three or four rivers basins or arguing with other boards over the same source of water. Local governments, meanwhile, want to make sure that they have a substantial voice in deciding the shape of the plans. Morris News Service/InsiderAdvantageGeorgia_ 12/26/07

Georgia climatologist warns state could face worse drought next year

Georgia's state climatologist warned Friday that without more rain over the next three months, the state could face a drought next year even worse than this year's record conditions. David Stooksbury said the severe drought gripping north Georgia and parts of the Southeast could expand through the rest of the state and lead to "catastrophic" conditions in the summer. And although recent rains have helped recharge dwindling reservoirs, Stooksbury said forecasts show a dry winter ahead and little chance of the drought breaking. AP/AccessNorthGa_ 12/22/07

Georgia lawmakers blast Alabama senator for blocking updates of water manuals

Georgia lawmakers are blasting Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama for slipping language into a massive end-of-year spending bill, blocking the federal government from updating the manuals that guide water-sharing in the region. Georgia lawmakers have for years argued that the Army Corps of Engineers plans are outdated and do not reflect their state's rapid growth. Alabama officials, meanwhile, have fought any updates until the parties can agree on an underlying sharing formula. The Corps announced in October that it would rewrite manauls for the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin, which runs southwest through Georgia and Alabama. The process could take up to three years, officials said. AP/AccessNorthGeorgia_ 12/19/07

Southern governors talk water, drought

The governors of three drought-stricken Southeastern states agreed Monday to speed up talks on sharing water during scarcities, hoping to end a nearly 18-year fight over the issue by March. The governors of Florida, Alabama and Georgia and federal officials also agreed not to reduce for now the minimum amount of water that will flow into the Apalachicola River, which feeds a major oyster breeding ground in the Florida Panhandle. That eases the minds of some fishermen and Florida officials -- they had feared the flow could be further reduced to meet drinking water needs in Atlanta. Florida's Charlie Crist, Georgia's Sonny Perdue and Alabama's Bob Riley said they agreed that their staffs will continue to work together to come up with a plan for doling out the region's water by March 15. That was hopeful news to fishermen along the Panhandle Gulf Coast, who were looking at the prospect of water flows remaining lower than they say they can tolerate until June 1, when an interim agreement on flow levels originally had been set to expire. Now, there's a possibility of agreeing on raising the amount of water coming into Florida earlier. Crist hinted that Georgia might need to increase its conservation -- noting Florida has made moves to cut use since the drought began. None of the governors, however, would talk specifics about where their chief remaining obstacles lie. AP/Business Week_ 12/17/07

Alabama, Florida, Georgia governors work toward water plan

The governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia agreed this afternoon to try to come up with an updated plan for dealing with a drought emergency by Feb. 15. The governors, meeting in Tallahassee, Florida today, said they would send staff members to Washington in mid-January to hammer out details of an agreement that could then be adopted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said the revised drought emergency plan likely would include guidelines for reducing water flows from reservoirs when they reach specified low water levels. He said the plan would affect both the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river system. Any deal reached by the governors also would have to be submitted for review to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, which could accept or reject parts or all of it if it would unacceptably harm endangered species. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said the talks were blunt and frank. Birmingham News_ 12/17/07

Florida, Alabama, Georgia governors try to agree on Lake Lanier water

Governors from three southeast states met in Florida Monday to try to reach an agreement on how better to share water which has become a scarce resource. At the center of the controversy between these states is Georgia's Lake Lanier. And as it continues to dry up, the states that rely on water flowing out Lake Lanier, have been worlds apart on how to handle the disappearing water source. So on Monday, the governors of Georgia, Alabama and Florida met to try to flush out a long term agreement. "It is probably inevitable that permanent year-round restrictions are going to be a reality," said Randy Smith of the South Florida Water Management District. Across the south, the economic impact is already into the hundreds of millions in lost crops and lost wages. The worst case scenario has some cities running dry by next summer. So the three governors have pledged to find middle ground by February 15th. NBC/WBIR_ 12/17/07

Alabama, Florida, Georgia governors meet on water issues

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley arrived in Tallahassee, Florida this morning and started talks with U.S. Intereior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue about sharing water. The meeting is a continuation of the talks the governors and Kempthorne had in Washington on Nov. 1. A historic drought has increased the urgency to resolve decades-long conflicts over water use. The governors plan a press conference about their discussions this afternoon. A Riley aide said before the meeting he didn't know what the governors would accomplish today. Birmingham News_ 12/17/07

The water war you never heard about

Not many people know that the three-state eruption of hostilities over water this fall was preceded by a smaller skirmish this summer. Not between Georgia and Florida, or Georgia and Alabama. But between Gov. Sonny Perdue and the downstream city of Columbus. In a July 6 letter, the governor informs Mayor Jim Wetherington that he’s picked up on some distrust within Columbus ranks over the state’s ability to do right by the city. Columbus, you see, planned to file a separate lawsuit against the U.S. Corps of Engineers over the flow of water down the Chattahoochee River. It’s worth noting here that in correspondence, the governor addressed the mayor as William J. Wetherington. They do know each other. Perdue sacked Wetherington four years ago, when he ran the state prison system. But to continue. In his July 10 reply to the governor’s assurances, Wetherington agreed to hold off on the city’s lawsuit until city and state officials could confab in Atlanta. They did. But apparently not to Columbus’ satisfaction. On Aug. 1, Wetherington informed the governor that his city was moving forward with the suit. Because it was a bastion of Democratic support and fund-raising in 2002, Columbus was given the cold shoulder by Perdue early in his tenure. Discretionary funding became so discrete that it nearly disappeared. Only recently had relations shown signs thawing. And now — global warming be damned — it looks like Columbus must endure another cold spell when the Legislature meets in January. Political Insider/Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 12/11/07

Most North Georgia communities have met water-cut requirement

Three-quarters of North Georgia communities and industries are meeting the state's required 10 percent cut in wintertime water use, state Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch said Monday. "That's a very, very remarkable achievement," Couch told 140 business and civic leaders at the Georgia Water Solutions Forum at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. But even that is not going to solve the long-term water woes presented by building one of the nation's fastest-growing metro areas on top of a small watershed largely dependent on Lake Lanier, a federal reservoir that must serve downstream needs. Couch, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and other top officials and water experts spoke at the day-long forum for metro Atlanta leaders looking for solutions to the water crisis. Among the possibilities mentioned were desalinating sea water and aggressive conservation measures. None of the ideas was new, but the forum — co-hosted by General Electric — brightened the spotlight on a problem that can be solved only by rain in the short term, and has no sure answer for the long term. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 12/11/07

Biggest hurdle for a Georgia water plan may come from within the state

The biggest hurdle standing between Georgia and its pursuit of a long-term water management plan might not be the lingering legal fight with Alabama and Florida or the uncertainty about federal intentions. It might just come from within Georgia's own borders. State Rep. Lynn Smith, the lawmaker charged with carrying the water plan through the Legislature, issued a not-so-gentle reminder to Atlanta leaders about the city's reputation throughout the rest of the state. "The rest of the state looks at you with straws in your pocket, ready to suck out the water," she told business leaders and politicians Monday at a water panel hosted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Smith's message underscores the challenges she and other state lawmakers face as they prepare to debate a water plan in a state where hot-button issues have long forced divisions more along regional lines than party lines. AP/AccessNorthGa_ 12/10/07

Corps of Engineers to send Lake Lanier recommendation

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Mobile, Alabama, is preparing a letter with its recommendations about reducing water releases from Lake Lanier. The chief of public affairs for the Mobile office — Pat Robbins — says the recommendations will be sent to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Panama City, Fla., which will make the final decision. He says the letter will outline basic conditions that would warrant a further reduction in the flow of water downstream from Lake Lanier. Robbins declined to give specifics, saying the letter is still being prepared. AP/Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 12/7/07

How full is Lake Lanier? The numbers keep changing

In mid-October, the federal agency that operates Lake Lanier estimated metro Atlanta's main water source had 113 days of readily available water left. Since then, the lake has dropped nearly 5 feet. Even less rain than anticipated has fallen. But on Thursday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revised its stored water estimate upward, to 167 days. So what gives? More than anything else, it's been the Corps' reduction in the amount of water released from Lanier in the past two weeks. Because more than 2 inches of rain fell in Middle Georgia, the Corps has been able to cut in half the amount of water sent downstream, to about 760 million gallons a day. But with dry days ahead, the Corps already knows it soon will have to crank back up its Florida-bound releases. And that means the estimated days of water left in Lanier will ratchet back down. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 12/7/07

Georgia, Florida, Alabama water meeting postponed

A meeting between the governors of Alabama, Georgia and Florida to hash out a long-term water agreement has been pushed back a week. The meeting, which was scheduled for next week in Tallahassee, was postponed to Dec. 17 due to scheduling conflicts, according to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's office. The White House recently brokered a temporary arrangement under which the Corps would hold more water in north Georgia's Lake Lanier while the states try to broker a longer agreement. This month's meeting is expected to be a key step in hashing out a permanent pact. AP/11Alive_ 12/4/07

If drought gets worse, Georgia preparing emergency water supplies

Townspeople stood in the sweltering heat at grocery stores and community centers, waiting to fill plastic jugs with water. Tanker trucks rumbled down the highways, bringing relief to a thirsty town suddenly gone dry. That was the scene 13 years ago when the Georgia city of Macon ran out of water. But it could also be a glimpse of the very near future in Atlanta and some other cities in the drought-stricken Southeast. The state of Georgia said it has lined up contracts with vendors to bring in bottled water and tanker trucks that could dispense water into jugs, jars and buckets. But the state, the city of Atlanta and the Georgia National Guard, which could be called into action by the governor to deliver water in an emergency, have yet to work out the details of exactly where the water would be distributed and how, saying it is too soon to say where it might be needed. In any case, those are just emergency measures for supplying people with the water they need for drinking, cooking, bathing and flushing the toilet. Atlanta and other communities have yet to settle on a long-term solution if the water runs out. AP/Charlotte Observer_ 12/4/07

Federal court ruling could invalidate Georgia's water rights, change water wars
If the Georgia-Alabama-Florida water wars were a poker match, Georgia's high card might be an agreement it secured in 2003 for rights to about a quarter of the water in Lake Lanier, a huge federal reservoir outside Atlanta. The agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - which Alabama and Florida claim is illegal - is the foundation of Georgia's long-term water plans, giving the Atlanta region the water it needs to continue growing as one of the nation's major cities. As a signed pact with the federal government, the deal also puts Georgia in a strong negotiating position with its neighbors. But with the governors of the three states meeting next week for White House-backed mediation, Georgia is in danger of losing its ace in the hole. A federal appeals court is expected to issue a decision in the coming months that could invalidate the state's rights under the agreement. The ruling could dramatically change the dynamic in the state's decades-long water wars, and observers say the governors talks might not get very far with such a crucial decision looming. AP/ABC_ 12/3/07

November, 2007

Piping Tennessee River, a possible solution to Georgia's drought

Only a mile from Georgia's northern border, the bountiful Tennessee River passes tantalizingly close to drought-stricken and desperate metro Atlanta, prompting politicians, scientists and homeowners to ask — nay, demand — that Georgia stick a 100-mile-long straw into the river and drown its own water woes. If only it were that simple. A tsunami's worth of political, technical, environmental and financial obstacles impede the Tennessee's flow to Atlanta. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is "adamantly opposed" to the southward transfer of water from the Volunteer State. But Georgia's State Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) said recently that Georgia should begin negotiations with state and federal authorities who control the river. Gov. Sonny Perdue said "everything has to be on the table," including inter-basin transfers of water between states. The 652-mile-long Tennessee River — the nation's fifth-largest — snakes from Knoxville, through Chattanooga, into Northern Alabama and Mississippi, before returning to western Tennessee and joining the Ohio River in Kentucky. The Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal corporation and the country's largest public power company, manages the river via a series of 49 dams and reservoirs. The Tennessee River's average flow through Chattanooga is 34,300 cubic feet per second – 17 times the amount that flows through the Chattahoochee River at Buford Dam. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/30/07

Florida oystermen express water worries

More than a dozen oystermen met with Governor Charlie Crist at the state capitol. Pointing to maps and explaining how a reduced flow from the Apalachicola River is already hurting the oyster crop, the group is looking for the Governor to stand up for them when he meets with the Governors of Alabama and Georgia over the water flow issue next week. Crist told them he hears what they are saying. "We're gonna fight for you. We're going to make sure that we protect the water that we have a right to have, and that you truly deserve and that your families depend upon. I get it. I understand." Crist also told the oyster delegation he looks forward to hearing more from the community before his Dec. 11 meeting with Governors Purdue and Reilly. WJHG_ 11/29/07

Jackson County, Florida, commissioners want a voice in water wars

Jackson County Commissioners adopted a resolution Tuesday that could give the board more of a presence in the ongoing water wars between Florida, Alabama and Georgia. The resolution asks that the county be kept better informed and be part of the process as the three states negotiate freshwater flows and water allocations in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river system. The resolution, which mirrors one approved by five other Florida counties in the region, will be sent to Gov. Charlie Crist, the Department of Environmental Protection and the state cabinet. Jackson County Floridan_ 11/27/07

Tallahasse Democrat two-part series on Florida, Georgia, Alabama water sharing

Part 1: Rivers connect and divide those who depend on them

Jim Scarbrough, who works at a water utility in the Atlanta area, and Johnny Richards, an oysterman on Apalachicola Bay, Florida, don't know each other, but they are connected by more than 400 miles of water — and the controversy over its dwindling flow. Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been fighting in court since 1990 over water from the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. Georgia says the water is needed for more than 3 million people in the Atlanta area. Florida says the water is needed for the seafood industry and economy in Apalachicola Bay. With four federal reservoirs along the Chattahoochee River, the flow to Florida is controlled more by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during droughts than by nature. Tallahasse Democrat_ 11/26/07

Part 2: Low water levels demand answers

The governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia said after a meeting Nov. 1 in Washington, D.C., that they had agreed to try to resolve their differences by Feb. 15. “I’m very hopeful and optimistic that those ‘for sale’ signs on that beachfront property on Lake Lanier will soon be gone,” Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said. For some Florida residents, that remark confirmed that the dispute is about Lake Lanier property values as much as drinking water or endangered species. They say Georgia should be doing more to conserve rather than blaming endangered species or Florida for Lake Lanier’s low water levels. “There is nobody in Atlanta suffering,” said Dan Tonsmeire of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper group. “What we are going to see down here is an economic as well as natural collapse of our system." Alabama, Georgia and Florida have tried before to resolve their water differences but without success. Congress and the states established a legal agreement in 1997 to provide for open negotiations among the governors, but an impasse remained. George William Sherk, a former professor at Georgia State University who has tracked the water dispute, says the states have grown farther apart as the drought has focused the debate on specific flow needs. “We have a bunch of people working on this problem who don’t have any real vision of what the problem is and what the solutions are,” Sherk said. Tallahasse Democrat_ 11/27/07

Scientists caution against gray water use as drought drags on

A University of Georgia scientist says that bath, shower and laundry water is NOT safe for reuse because it might contain bacteria or other contaminants. As the state's historic drought drags on, people are wondering whether they can safely and legally use ``gray water'' on outdoor plants. While 13 states have laws that allow regulated gray water use, Georgia does NOT. U-G-A hydrology professor Todd Rasmussen says that toilet and dishwater -- considered ``black water'' -- is unsafe for human contact and should always be discarded. Though gray water is less dangerous than black water, it could still contain traces of fecal matter, blood, or other contaminants. And if a person carries an infectious disease, the water could be dangerous for humans to contact on a lawn. Rasmussen says that water that comes from a shower or sink spigot while waiting for water to get hot to use later for drinking, shaving, or brushing teeth is allowed, but it is only considered fresh or clean for about 24 hours, since the chlorine either evaporates or breaks down opening the door to potential pathogens. AP/AccessNorth Georgia_ 11/25/07

In Las Vegas, wasting water is a sin

Outside the Bellagio casino, tourists stare at fountains thrusting water into the sky as Elvis sings "Viva Las Vegas." Meanwhile, off the Strip, residents dig up their lawns to save water — and get paid for it. That's the paradox in this desert town where water lured people thousands of years before casino-constructed wonders such as the canals of the Venetian, the shark reef of Mandalay Bay and the fountains of the Bellagio. By the 1800s, a life-sustaining spring on the Old Spanish Trail had inspired travelers to label this spot Las Vegas, "the meadows." Then in 1935, the Hoover Dam opened on the Colorado River, creating what is now Lake Mead. The region seemed guaranteed a reliable flow of water as far into the future as anyone could see. But the original spring dried up 45 years ago, and now Lake Mead is in serious trouble. A seven-year drought has the 157,000-acre reservoir looking as if someone pulled the plug, leaving a waterline 100 feet high that locals labeled "the bathtub ring." When it comes to water, Atlanta has a thing or two in common with Las Vegas. Both are among the country's fastest-growing cities. Nevada shares the Colorado River with six other states; Georgia competes with Alabama and Florida for the Chattahoochee. And in Las Vegas, as in Atlanta, the rain has stopped falling. Las Vegas takes conservation seriously enough to give its water agency its own police force. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/24/07

U.S. water crisis may be less than a decade away

At center stage, three states are in a stalemate over Georgia's Lake Lanier, whose water supply is 11 feet below the November average due to drought. Lake Lanier represents the steady shrinking of lakes, rivers and basins throughout the U.S. that previously had more than enough water. New weather patterns, arguably related to climate change, are forcing utility companies to find new water supplies. If current weather trends persist, within a decade, these water storage areas may not satisfy demand. Not everyone agrees that climate change is the reason for lower water levels. Michael Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center, said the country is short of water due to population growth in areas where water is scarce, emphasis on water-related tourism and recreation and the value Americans now place on the environment. Some waters are off-limits to protect endangered species. Scripps Howard/Kansas City infoZine_ 11/23/07

Northeast Georgia receives much needed rainfall on Thanksgiving, but will it make a difference?

More than two inches of rain fell at Helen along the Chattahoochee River in northeast Georgia, but it is hard to determine whether the rainfall will have any appreciable effect downstream at Lake Lanier, metro Atlanta's main water supply. Amounts of precipitation Wednesday night and yesterday varied throughout the drought-stricken river basin. Much of it was soaked into the dry and thirsty ground, and experts already have said Georgia needs months of above-average rainfall to emerge from the drought. More rain is expected this weekend. WSAV_ 11/23/07

Georgia's Cobb Water Authority disputes Corps of Engineers charge it takes too much water from Lake Allatoona

In a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority disputes a claim by the corps that it is taking too much water from the lake. The corps, which operates Allatoona and Lake Lanier, notified the regional water supplier earlier this month and gave it 10 days to respond. The authority is the primary wholesaler for Cobb and Paulding counties and sells water to other agencies in much of the northern suburbs. It filed its letter late Monday night, after failing to win an extension on the deadline. Its chief point is that the corps only regulates how much water stored in Allatoona belongs to the authority; the state controls how much it withdraws. The letter makes five other points:

• The corps claim that the authority is taking out more than the permitted 34.5 million gallons per day fails to take into account that about one-third of the water is returned to the water basin for use downstream.

• The corps has known since 1981 that the Cobb authority's gross withdrawals exceeded the 34.5 million gallons per day, the level set by the corps.

• The authority's water use is not adversely affecting other downstream users.

• The authority has no other options to meet water supply demands of its retail customers.

• The authority's conservation programs are superior to other water users who draw from the same water source. Officials at the corps said Monday night they would not respond immediately to the Cobb letter. They did not return calls for comment on Tuesday. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/20/07

Georgia's Lake Lanier nears record low, reduction in water releases won't affect lake levels for months

As a record-setting drought continues to bake Northeast Georgia, Lake Lanier's water level on Sunday neared its lowest since it began filling up more than 50 years ago. At 9 p.m. Sunday, the water level was at 1,052.76 feet above sea level, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site. The lake is now less than two inches above the previously recorded low of 1,052.66 feet, recorded in December 1981. With no drought-busting rains in the forecast, the water level is expected to continue dropping. Some rain is expected Wednesday and Thursday, but not enough to end the drought. Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came to an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday to collectively reduce the flow of water from Buford Dam to 4,750 cubic feet per second, Coghlan said lake levels have not yet been substantially affected. She added that it will likely take months for the reduced release rate to contribute to steady or rising lake levels. Gainesville Times_ 11/19/07

Southwest Georgia farmers accuse Atlanta of hogging water

With a historic drought gripping the Southeast, Georgia farmers are increasingly worried that their needs will be sacrificed to those of Atlanta -- a city of runaway growth and seemingly unquenchable thirst -- or water-guzzling Florida. The drought has forced much of the state to enact unprecedented watering restrictions, and legislative leaders want to build more state reservoirs. Some -- including Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin -- have also floated the idea of transferring water to Atlanta from other places via pipeline. Franklin has not specifically mentioned pumping water out of southwest Georgia’s Flint River or its tributaries, but the mere possibility has stoked the long-standing tension between the big city and the countryside. Pantagraph.com_ 11/19/07

University of Georgia's water task force issues conservation recomendations

The University of Georgia's ad hoc task force on water resources culminated its research on the drought with the release of its water resources report on Friday, offering the administration short- and long-term recommendations for conserving water on campus. In the short term, the task force recommendations included low flush toilets, auditing water use in buildings and encouraging personal accountability for water use. Long-term recommendations cover landscaping, construction and administrative options, such as creating an Office of Sustainability. This office would oversee energy efficiency and water conservation across campus. Outlining an "Emergency Water Management Plan" to address emergency situations also made it into the report, along with measures the University could implement in a worst-case scenario. Red and Black_ 11/19/07

Feds reduce Lake Lanier water flows to Florida

Federal biologists signed off on a plan Friday to reduce the flow of water from Lake Lanier -- the north Georgia reservoir that is Atlanta's main water source. The lake also is one of the main focal points in a three-state water fight involving Georgia, Alabama and Florida. The decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that federally protected mussels can live with less of the water from Lanier would allow drought-stricken Georgia to keep more of the water in the drying lake. The verdict means the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages regional water resources, could be sending billions of gallons less of water each day downstream from Georgia. The decision also could set off another round of legal challenges by Florida, which argues reducing the flows downstream could endanger the state's fishing economy. AP/WGCL_ 11/16/07

Decision due Friday on Georgia's Lake Lanier water for mussels

Federal and state officials for the first time Thursday agreed on how much drinking water is left in Lake Lanier.  We have 79 days.

That makes Friday's decision, which could slow the flow of water from Lanier to Florida, especially critical. The verdict from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists on whether federally protected mussels can live with less of Lanier's water is being closely watched in Washington and three state capitals.  Any one of the three affected states — Georgia, Alabama or Florida — is likely to sue if the decision doesn't go their way.  At issue is the billions of gallons of water the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing from Lanier every day, largely to ensure the survival of two mussel species living in Florida's Apalachicola River. The corps, which operates Lanier, has increased the releases to make up for the worsening drought.  The corps said earlier this month that it wants to cut the flow of water going to Florida by 17 percent until the drought eases. The corps' plan would reduce the flow from Lanier to less than 2 billion gallons a day — still enough to fill about 2,650 Olympic-size pools.  But to proceed, the corps needs approval from Fish and Wildlife, the federal agency charged with protecting rare and threatened creatures. Fish and Wildlife could ask the corps to change parts of its plan.  Georgia supports the corps' plan. Alabama's governor says he can live with it. Florida opposes it.  If Fish and Wildlife biologists agree to keeping more of Lanier's water in the lake, mussels will die. The endangered fat threeridge and threatened purple bankclimber mussels are freshwater mollusks given federal protection in 1998.  If the biologists don't agree and the corps has to continue releasing water to save the federally protected species, Lanier could empty within a year. On Thursday, the lake was nearly 11 feet below the average level, yet the corps released 2.6 billion gallons downstream — the single largest daily release since May 2006.  Lanier is on the verge of dropping to its lowest level since it was built in the 1950s. That could happen this weekend.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_11/16/07

Georgia governor leads prayer for rain

Bowing his head outside the Georgia Capitol on Tuesday, Gov. Sonny Perdue cut a newly repentant figure as he publicly prayed for rain to end the region's historic drought. "Oh father, we acknowledge our wastefulness," Perdue said. "But we're doing better. And I thought it was time to acknowledge that to the creator, the provider of water and land, and to tell him that we will do better." Hundreds of Georgians -- ministers and lawmakers, landscapers and office workers -- gathered in downtown Atlanta for the prayer vigil. Some held bibles and crucifixes. Many swayed and linked arms as a choir sang "What a Mighty God We Serve" and "Amazing Grace." As Perdue described it, "We have come together, very simply, for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm." As metropolitan Atlanta's water supplies drain to record lows, many across the Southeast have criticized Perdue and other Georgia officials for failing to introduce more stringent conservation measures. More than a few people who attended seemed skeptical that prayer would end the drought. Los Angeles Times_ 11/14/07 (logon required)

Georgia legislators to vote on water use plan in January

Two of Gwinnett's legislative representatives said Tuesday night that a consensus on a statewide water management plan is likely to emerge before a January vote. An appointed panel has been hashing out policy proposals to regulate water use statewide. The Georgia Water Council's plan will be presented to the Legislature in January for a vote. Every legislator will want to come back from the next session able to tell constituents they helped solve the water crisis, said Rep. John Heard (R-Lawrenceville). And a comprehensive water plan will also provide ammunition for Georgia's governor to use in negotiations with other states, he said. The plan calls for Georgia to study how much water is flowing through its rivers and find ways to allocate water use to different areas of the state. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/13/07

Chattanooga, Tennessee touts plentiful water; invites businesses to by-pass Atlanta

First, the mayor wants it known that his water-rich city 118 miles north of drought-stricken Atlanta isn't bragging. Second, though, he wants businesses considering locating in the Southeast to know that his city has an abundance of water, thanks to the Tennessee River. Mayor Ron Littlefield says officials in Atlanta and other cities have told him they eye the river with envy and would love to have such an asset in their economic development arsenal. USA Today_ 11/13/07

Alabama still has no water plan

Despite a record-breaking two-year drought, Alabama still has no effective plan to manage its water supply, which some experts say has already hurt the state's case during ongoing water disputes with Georgia and could hinder economic development efforts. A drought response plan -- which suggests, in part, that drought can lead to suicide -- has been in limbo at the Alabama Office of Water Resources for the past 3½ years. The state has not counted the number of dams within its borders since 1981, and has no accurate measure of how much water belongs to the state. Experts cite a lack of urgency as the chief reason for the state's inaction. Press-Register/Al.com_ 11/11/07

Federal officials say Georgia misrepresenting drought

Two federal agencies working on Georgia’s unprecedented drought let state officials know Thursday that they didn’t appreciate the way Georgia portrayed the regional water shortage as a fight between endangered mussels and the people of Atlanta. There’s plenty of water for both man and mussel and Atlanta knows it, they said. The first words out of the mouth of Earl Stockdale, the Army Corps of Engineers’ top lawyer, were blunt. Gov. Sonny Perdue’s public declaration that Atlanta had only 90 days of water left was just plain wrong, he said. “Atlanta’s water,” he said, “is not in imminent - and I emphasize ‘imminent’ - danger of running out,” he said, though no one had asked him. Meanwhile Sam Hamilton, the southeast regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said that the amount of water flowing out of Lake Lanier to Alabama and Florida, Georgia’s top concern, has nothing to do with preserving the mussels - as Georgia officials insist. “That (flow level) was established before anything was listed” as endangered, Hamilton said. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/9/07

South Georgia water well users advised to be cautious

A record-breaking drought sweeping South Georgia has the health department issuing an alert to residents using well water. Melissa Durkin with the Health Department says it's "to inform them about the possibility of contamination of water. When the water levels drop you can have more increased possibilities of contamination." Those possibilities include animal fecal matter, e. coli, bacteria or dangerous chemicals seeping into the water supply. "So we want to encourage people to keep an eye on their water," Durkin adds. "If it looks cloudy or dirty we can test it for them." Health officials say they've only heard of a couple reports of dirty water. So they're asking all well users to conserve as much water as possible to lower the danger. wctv_ 11/9/07

Florida backs away from latest deal in tri-state water wars

The state of Florida on Friday backed away from a temporary truce brokered by the Bush administration to help settle a long-standing water war — now heightened by an ongoing drought — involving Florida, Georgia and Alabama. In a letter to federal officials, Florida's environmental protection chief said the state opposes an arrangement announced in Washington last week under which the Army Corps of Engineers would cut river flows into Florida and Alabama in order to capture more water for Georgia. The river reductions would cause a "catastrophic collapse of the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay" and "displace the entire economy of the Bay region," wrote Michael Sole, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist raised no such objections at a press conference in Washington last week, where Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne hailed the governors for coming together as good neighbors. Kempthorne said the temporary changes in river operations would come as the states worked toward completing a longer-term pact by Feb. 15. AP/Gainesville Times_ 11/9/07

Congress hears Georgia drought woes

Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) are holding separate meetings today on Capitol Hill to talk about ways to resolve the water-sharing dispute between Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Linder is holding a hearing on a bill he introduced last January to form the federal “21st Century Water Commission” to oversee water resources nationwide. The five-member commission would investigate exactly how states and localities are using water to ensure “an adequate and dependable water supply to meet U.S. needs for the next 50 years." Gingrey, meanwhile, will be part of a roundtable discussion with congressmen from all three states and representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/8/07

Georgia withdraws request for federal judge  to curb Lake Lanier water flow to Florida

Georgia on Tuesday withdrew its request that a federal judge stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from sending so much water downstream to Florida from Lake Lanier. The state's action helps clear the way for a negotiated settlement outside of court to resolve a 17-year water war waged by Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Governors of the three states plan to meet next month in Tallahassee and have vowed to resolve their water rights dispute by Feb. 15. Last week, the states agreed to a White House-brokered deal for the corps to reduce by 16 percent the amount of water flowing downstream to Florida from the river basin that includes Lanier. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is assessing whether the reduction would cause the extinction of two federally protected mussel species in Florida's Apalachicola River. The agency is expected to give its answer Nov. 15. In a statement Tuesday, Gov. Sonny Perdue said, "With the recent intervention by President Bush to compel our federal partners to come to the table, I am optimistic that this matter can be resolved outside of a courtroom. I never want to resort to legal action to settle disputes, but the seriousness of this drought forced me to explore every option available to protect Georgia's water resources," the governor said. Georgia reserved the right to re-file its request in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/6/07

History suggests Feb. 15 deadline for tri-state water deal unlikely

A longtime adviser on the nearly two-decade-long water war among Georgia, Florida and Alabama had one question when he heard that governors of the three states vowed to settle their differences by Feb. 15. What year? The latest three governors to face the issue — Georgia's Sonny Perdue, Alabama's Bob Riley and Florida's Charlie Crist — agreed during a private lunch last week with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and the chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality to reach a comprehensive water agreement by early next year. But people like Jerry Sherk who have witnessed the dispute for years have their doubts. Sherk, who specializes in water law and who over the years has advised both Georgia and the city of LaGrange in the dispute, is blunt about the likelihood of a deal in 3½ months. "Not a chance," he said. "If there's political goodwill, we will reach a nice, superficial, unenforceable gentleman's agreement that will be window dressing at best." Too many parties — from various federal agencies to hydropower customers — would need to be at the table in too short a time, Sherk warned. What's more, he said, "The absence of trust here is more all-pervasive than I've ever seen it in a water conflict, and I've seen a lot of water conflicts." Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/4/07

Georgia water officials may have to reduce withdrawals from Lake Allatoona

Gov. Sonny Perdue went to Washington to solve metro Atlanta's water crisis and save Lake Lanier, and came home with another problem: losing rights to some water in Lake Allatoona. Allatoona, the region's secondary source of water, is running low just like Lanier in this record-setting drought. But the more immediate worry is that the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority may be forced to significantly cut its withdrawals now, while the lake still has enough water for residents in Cobb and parts of Douglas and Paulding counties. That's because the water authority may be taking out up to twice as much water as it's allowed under a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that owns the reservoir. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/3/07

'Every Drop Counts:' At the University of Georgia homecoming game, no flushing please

The current drought has had such an impact on Georgia that fans at Saturday's University of Georgia homecoming game were asked not to flush the toilet. An attendant was going to do it for them. It's part of the university's ``Every Drop Counts'' water conservation effort. Earlier this week, crews put up signs in bathrooms asking people not to flush ``if it's yellow'' and to leave the handle-pulling to attendants, who were being assigned the job for the estimated 93,000 people expected at the game. Arthur Johnson, associate athletic director for internal operations, said UGA is considering replacing all of the stadium's old toilets, which use three-and-a-half gallons of water per flush, with new ones that use less than half that amount. But two old-fashinoned trough urinals that have constant running water were to be open beneath the west end stands during the game against Troy University. AP/AccessNorthGa_ 11/3/07

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen opposes sending more water to Georgia

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin recently suggested exploring ways to pipe in water from other areas, including from the Tennessee or Savannah rivers, although Georgia officials said they have no plans to pursue such a plan. But Bredesen said the state needs to be careful in managing its water. ``I would have a real problem ... with a wholesale transfer of water out of the Tennessee watershed,'' Bredesen said. Bredesen, a Democrat, said he has no objections to the amounts of water currently sent outside the state under Tennessee's Interbasin Water Transfer Act. The law allows state regulators to control diversions between watersheds. The 562-mile-long Tennessee River is the fifth largest river in the country. About 5.8 billion gallons per day of Tennessee River water flow through Chattanooga every day. AP/AccessNorthGa_ 11/3/07

Water meter at Georgia governor's compound broken for 2 years

Even as Gov. Sonny Perdue touted water-saving efforts at his Buckhead mansion in the face of the state's historic drought, a water meter serving the guard barracks at his home was broken — and has been that way for more than two years, according to the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management. Because the meter is on the fritz, city water officials said they could not say how much water is being used there. They said they have been estimating water bills for the barracks for at least as long as the meter has been broken. At a time when tracking water usage is critical, the bum meter is among thousands that need to be repaired or replaced in Atlanta, unincorporated Fulton County and Sandy Springs, according to the city. Of Atlanta's roughly 149,000 home and business meters, 6,654 are old, broken, tampered with, lost or otherwise unreadable. The city has signed a multi-million dollar contract to have all the meters replaced, but it didn't ask that the broken ones be fixed first. Until that's finished, the city is estimating monthly bills for ones out of whack. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/2/07

Corps of Engineers to ease Georgia water crunch as governors negotiate drought

Under a plan brokered by the Bush administration, the Army Corps of Engineers would hold back more water in Georgia lakes as the governors of drought-stricken Georgia, Florida and Alabama work toward a water-sharing agreement. The proposal - which would bolster Atlanta's drinking supply at the expense of users downstream - was announced Thursday after the governors of the three states met with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and other administration officials. It still must win approval from the federal Fish and Wildlife Service because of the potential impact on several protected species of mussels and sturgeon that live downstream. Officials said the agency would issue an expedited biological opinion on the change within two weeks. AP/AccessNorthGa_ 11/1/07

October, 2007

Alabama officials support Gov. Bob Riley's water efforts

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford will be among 15 Alabama elected officials traveling to Montgomery today to show support for Gov. Bob Riley's efforts to stop Georgia from reducing the flow of water from federal reservoirs. The Southeast Water Alliance is hosting what it calls an “educational press conference” at 1:30 p.m. today at the Alabama Statehouse. A group of mayors and county commissioners from around the state will discuss steps taken in their communities to alleviate the impact of the ongoing drought on residents. Lunsford said the conference is an opportunity to show that the state's elected officials stand behind Riley in the dispute with Georgia over water usage. The Messenger_ 10/30/07


Drought leaves part of Georgia acquarium dry

In the name of conservation, the Georgia Aquarium, home of the world's largest fish tank, has emptied some of its watery displays. The downtown Atlanta attraction has drained a lake in an atrium, turned off a waterfall and nearly emptied a moat at an exhibit, refilling it with sand. The aquarium isn't alone: A water salute to retiring pilots at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport also has been put on hold. The efforts are some of the most unusual as the state contends with one of the worst droughts in its history. The aquarium also is installing waterless urinals and low-flow faucets, banning pressure-washing of its building and requiring all employees and volunteers to take a water-conservation course. None of the drained exhibits contained fish, aquarium spokeswoman Meghann Gibbons said. AP/ABC News_ 10/30/07

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley calls for tri-state water talks, not fights

Alabama cannot let Georgia claim the water in federal reservoirs such as Lake Lanier as if it belonged only to Atlanta, Gov. Bob Riley says, but Alabama must be willing in an extreme drought to bear the pain of fairly sharing water with Georgia and Florida. Riley is calling for shared sacrifices as he and the governors of Georgia and Florida plan to take their water fight to Washington Thursday. "I hope we can get a better understanding of what our positions are," Riley said. "I think it's much better to do it face to face than it is to continue this rhetoric that has become so heightened over the last few days. It's time for Alabama and Georgia and Florida ... to come up with a solution that makes sense rather than continuing to fight in court." Atlanta's location is the root of the problem - it's one of the worst for water supply of any major U.S. city. Built at the intersections of railroads that followed ridge lines, the city sits near the headwaters of six water basins. Its major reservoirs collect water from very small upstream areas. Riley published a conciliatory letter in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday, regretting the "strain in the normally amicable relationship between Alabama and Georgia" and noting that "Gov. Sonny Perdue is a friend of mine." Birmingham News_ 10/28/07

Drought gives Georgia water planning new urgency

Despite plenty of warnings, critics say, Georgia never got around to developing a water management plan to handle a severe drought. Now that reservoirs already are shrinking and water supplies are threatened, lawmakers are scrambling to cope. After years of lax zoning laws and pro-growth policies that led to urban sprawl throughout much of northern Georgia, politicians are preparing a statewide water plan that would guide Georgia's growth and provide emergency drought plans.  AP/USA Today_ 10/28/07

Bush officials meet with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on water sharing with Alabama and Florida

Bush administration officials and Georgia's two U.S. senators met privately in Atlanta this morning with Gov. Sonny Perdue to discuss North Georgia's water crisis. Afterward, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, rushed off to Montgomery to meet with Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. They are also expected to talk with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Perdue and Kempthorne said little after the meeting, other than to note that all three governors will get together to talk about water Thursday in Washington. The shuttle diplomacy by administration officials is an attempt to find a solution to the war over water going on in the three states. Kempthorne told reporters, "This drought is happening across the United States of America. These kind of meetings are happening in regions throughout the United States of American. We will find solutions." Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 10/27/07

No truce in tri-state water war
Georgia, Florida and Alabama spar over state's drought-stricken Lanier, but agree to face-to-face talks

After a week of public fighting over the drought-depleted waters of Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River, Gov. Sonny Perdue and his counterparts in Alabama and Florida have agreed to a face-to-face talk Nov. 1 in Washington.  Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said the governor is "looking forward to sitting down and talking about these issues. Obviously we've done these meetings before. ... We're certainly willing to keep talking."  The three states began fighting over Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee in 1990, when Alabama and Florida filed federal lawsuits to stop metro Atlanta from taking any more water. Those cases are still active today, in a U.S. District Court in Jacksonville. With the drought worsening, Georgia began a campaign of pressuring the federal government to reduce the amount of water released to Florida from Lanier, metro Atlanta's main water source. Perdue asked a federal judge to intervene, and made a personal plea to President Bush to order the corps to reduce its releases.  Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist wrote their own letters to Bush this week, asking the president not to get involved.  Today, emissaries from the White House will meet separately with Perdue and Riley. The governors are meeting in their own offices with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to discuss Perdue's request to keep more water in Lanier and Riley's opposition.  Crist's office would not discuss his schedule.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_10/26/07

Georgia to build four new reservoirs to fight drought
With an epic drought gripping the region, Georgia lawmakers announced plans Thursday for a network of state reservoirs, while the governors of Alabama and Florida warned that Georgia's consumption threatens their downstream states. The Georgia plan would involve building at least four new reservoirs and expanding existing ones. Lawmakers did not say how much state funding would go toward bolstering the state's water supply. "We think it's time to jump-start the building of reservoirs in Georgia," House Speaker Glenn Richardson said. When the state's legislative session begins in January, "We are going to provide the full energy of the state behind this," Richardson said. "Frankly, we should have been doing this before now." AP/ABC News_ 10/25/07

Some businesses thrive in Georgia drought

Peeking out over the office buildings and utility poles in this Atlanta suburb, a towering gray drill bores down in search of what everyone in north Georgia seems to be seeking these days: Water.  Business is booming for local well drillers as residents look for ways to insulate themselves from one of the Southeast's worst droughts on record.  "We could run seven days a week if we wanted to," Wes Watson said as he took a break from the muddy task of drilling a new well. "There's plenty of work. It's a bad situation but it's great for us."  Landscapers, plant nurseries and other "green industries" have had to lay off thousands because of the drought, particularly after the state banned outdoor watering through the northern half of the state. More job cuts are likely if the state announces additional water restrictions.  But well drillers, wastewater recyclers and "greenscapers" are feeling their fortunes rise as Georgia's rivers and lakes fall.  Associated Press_10/25/07

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist urges President Bush to reject Georgia's request for water relief

Crist fired the latest salvo in the decades old Georgia-Florida-Alabama water war Wednesday evening. He sent a letter to President Bush asking him to deny Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's request for emergency drought relief. Specifically, Crist wants the President to refuse to alter the amount of water the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases from Lake Lanier, which serves all three states. Perdue claims the millions of gallons sent downstream every day is placing the drought-stricken resevoir and much of north Georgia in peril. Alabama Governor Bob Riley wrote a similar letter to the President earlier this week. He called any reduction in Lake Lanier releases "a radical step that would ignore the vital downstream interests of Alabama." But Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue is sticking to his guns. Speaking at a dried up dock on Troup County's West Point Lake on Thursday, Perdue likened the decades long dispute to an old west water war. 11Alive_ 10/25/07

Ga. orders agencies to cut water use
Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday banned the washing of state vehicles and ordered inmates to take one quick shower a day as part of an effort to reduce water use in the drought-stricken state.  Standing on the banks of a dwindling lake, Perdue ordered state agencies to reduce their water consumption by 10 to 15 percent as the state struggles with one of the worst droughts in its history.  The governor's order also bans the installation of new landscaping and power washing state buildings. It also requires employees to probe state buildings for leaks.  The day before, Perdue ordered public water providers in 61 Georgia counties to cut usage by 10 percent. That order leaves it up to each system to decide how to restrict water, and exempts agricultural users.  Those reductions are to be in place by Nov. 1, and the state Environmental Protection Division will impose fines on those who don't comply.  Almost a third of the Southeast is covered by an "exceptional" drought — the worst drought category. The Atlanta area, with a population of 5 million, is in the middle of the affected region. With a dry winter in the forecast and less than 80 days of stored water left in Lake Lanier, the north Georgia reservoir that supplies water to about 3 million residents, the state has already ordered restrictions and Perdue has warned of more.   AP_10/24/07

War of words heats up; Alabama governor opposes Corps plan to update water sharing manual

Alabama officials are reacting strongly to a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to update the manuals it uses to decide how Alabama and Georgia share water. “The decision by the Corps of Engineers to update the water control manuals represents yet another example of the Corps reneging on commitments made to Alabama, and there is no question about that,” said Gov. Bob Riley. Gov. Riley also rejects the erroneous claim by Georgia’s Senators that Alabama entities took no action to conserve water this summer. “Atlanta can’t spend all summer during a drought watering their lawns and flowers and then expect someone else to bail them out. If Atlanta had done what Birmingham did in June, then Atlanta’s problem today would be much less severe,” said Riley. Enterprise Ledger_ 10/23/07

Gov. Sonny Perdue calls for 10 percent water reductions through north Georgia

Perdue ordered the 10 percent water usage cut Tuesday to conserve more of the state's dwindling water supply in the midst of an epic drought gripping the Southeast. Perdue calls the move a "first step" to reducing water usage during the drought, and encouraged Georgia residents to treat drying lawns and dirty cars as a "badge of honor." The cuts apply to the 61 north Georgia counties covered by a September order that banned virtually all outdoor watering. Almost one-third of the Southeast is covered by an "exceptional" drought _ the worst drought category. The Atlanta area, with a population of 5 million, is smack in the middle of the affected region, which includes most of Tennessee, Alabama and the northern half of Georgia, as well as parts of North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. AP/AccessNorthGa.com_ 10/23/07

Alabama governor asks President Bush to turn down Georgia request for water disaster declaration

Gov. Bob Riley sent a letter Monday to President Bush urging him to deny a request by Georgia's governor for a disaster declaration. The Alabama governor said such a declaration would put people and jobs in Alabama at risk. Riley said in the letter that Georgia's request that the president order less water be released from Lake Lanier "would be a radical step that would ignore the vital downstream interests of Alabama." In the letter, Riley said he understands the needs of Atlanta residents, but said the state can't stand by and let Georgia to take control of the reservoir's water to the detriment of Alabamians who live and work downstream. Riley said a reduced flow could force a shutdown of the Farley Nuclear Plant, as well as industrial plants that use water from the Chattahoochee River. Riley said Georgia has "overstated the severity of the crisis in the Atlanta region." AP/WPMI-TV/MSNBC_ 10/22/07

South Georgia surface water also shrinking

Governor Sonny Perdue is still waiting to hear from the White House after asking President George Bush to declare north Georgia a major disaster area. Monday an Army Corps of Engineer site manager at Walter F. George Lake in Clay County says it's the lowest he's seen the lake in 30 years and it's just as bad as what's happening north of Atlanta, the only difference, south Georgia doesn't rely on surface water for its drinking water. But businesses downstream need the water too or face layoffs. "Downstream we have Farley Nuclear Plant, Georgia Pacific, Paper MIlls located down stream also as well as Gulf Power has a steam plant below or dam in Chattahoochee, Florida," said Richard Johns, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walter F. George Site Manager. Slowly the Army Corps of Engineers has been lowering five federal areas along the Chattahoochee to provide enough water downstream, but it's hit Lanier the hardest because of Atlanta's drinking water needs. It could be several weeks before the Army Corps of Engineers decides whether they can honor the Governor's request to release less water from Georgia lakes and particularly Lake Lanier north of Atlanta. Perdue has also asked a federal judge to force the Army Corps of Engineers to curb the amount of water it drains from Georgia reservoirs into streams in Alabama and Florida. WALB10_ 10/22/07

Genesis: Tri-state water wars kicked off 17 years ago; Georgia wanted to build a reservoir, Alabama filed suit

The states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have been at odds over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin for 17 years. The various lawsuits have been consolidated into the Middle District of Florida and will be heard by a Minnesota judge appointed to the cases. Because of the lawsuits, the water control plan for the river basin is stuck in a time warp. While there has been an interim operating plan, a full update of the plan has been on hold. The last plan was written when Georgia had a population of 6.4 million people. Since that time, the state has been the fastest growing east of the Rockies and has a population of about 9 million today. Most are concentrated in the Atlanta area, where a majority of the water comes from the Chattahoochee River. But what made the three states such bitter enemies in the quest for water? In the mid-1980s, Gov. Joe Frank Harris appointed a Growth Strategies Commission that recommended during the 1986-88 drought that the state construct additional reservoirs to meet future water needs. The first reservoir was to be built in Haralson County near the Alabama border. That reservoir became the basis of Alabama’s first lawsuit against Georgia in federal court. Gainesville Times_ 10/22/07

Georgia seeks federal water disaster declaration

With water supplies rapidly shrinking during a drought of historic proportions, Gov. Sonny Perdue declared a state of emergency Saturday for the northern third of Georgia and asked President Bush to declare it a major disaster area. Georgia officials warn that Lake Lanier, a 38,000-acre reservoir that supplies more than 3 million residents with water, is less than three months from depletion. Smaller reservoirs are dropping even lower. Perdue asked the president to exempt Georgia from complying with federal regulations that dictate the amount of water released from Georgia's reservoirs to protect federally protected mussel species downstream. AP/Yahoo! 10/20/07

Corps of Engineers stuck in the middle of Georgia, Florida, Alabama water feud

Alabama, Florida and Georgia lawmakers are upping the ante in a feud over water rights, a fight fueled by Atlanta's explosive growth and worries that drought-stricken regions of the Southeast are months away from running out of water. All three states accuse the corps playing favorites in choosing when to release millions of gallons of water for drinking, hydropower, recreational and agricultural uses. McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram_ 10/20/07

Tough water talk from Alabama Gov. Bob Riley

Governor Bob Riley is speaking out, saying he's so frustrated with the Army Corps of Engineers, he may order Alabama waterways to slow down their releases even if it might defy federal regulations. Alabama's legal position is that the Army Corps of Engineers has allowed several Georgia communities to take more water out of the federally regulated Lake Allatoona than any of them ever signed contracts for all while shorting downstream amounts Alabama is supposed to get. Now, with some communities starting to talk about extreme contingency plans like trucking in water, Riley says he may order Alabama lakes to lessen their downstream releases - just as he says Georgia has - even if it might conflict with federal law. "If it means we're going to have to regulate our own reservoirs and our own lakes according to what we feel is correct, then I think it's time for us to do it," said the governor. WSFA12News_ 10/19/07

Corps of Engineers to update Georgia, Alabama water-sharing manuals

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will update the manuals it uses to decide how Georgia and Alabama share water in a major river basin, agreeing to a long-sought demand from Georgia officials who say new formulas are necessary to account for their state's rapid growth. The agency began notifiying lawmakers of the decision Thursday afternoon. While Georgians cheered the development, it angered Alabama officials who have fought to block the update, fearing it could cripple the state's water supply. AP/NBC13_ 10/19/07


Atlanta, the largest metro area in the Southeast, should have seen it coming

Atlanta has long relied on 38,000-acre Lake Lanier north of the city to supply its tap water. But as Georgia became one of the nation's fastest-growing states, its capital grew to more than 4.5 million people, and the '50s-era reservoir simply could not keep up. Atlanta sought to increase its water draw from Lake Lanier in 1989. The state unveiled a plan for 12 new reservoirs on the Chattahoochee River to supply future needs. After years of eyeing Atlanta's increasing thirst, neighboring Alabama and Florida sued to protect their own water needs downstream. The "Tri-State Water War" has been winding through the courts ever since. Elements of it are reflected in today's water crisis across the Southeast as what is normally one of the wettest regions of the USA withers under a 16-month spell of exceptional dryness. USA Today_ 10/19/07

Georgia officials have no backup plan for worst drought scenario

With the South in the grip of an epic drought and its largest city holding less than a 90-day supply of water, officials are scrambling to deal with the worst-case scenario: What if Atlanta's faucets really do go dry? So far, no real backup plan exists. And there are no quick fixes among suggested solutions, which include piping water in from rivers in neighboring states, building more regional reservoirs, setting up a statewide recycling system or even desalinating water from the Atlantic Ocean. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue seems to be pinning his hopes on a two-pronged approach: urging water conservation and reducing water flowing out of federally controlled lakes. Perdue's office on Friday asked a Florida federal judge to force the Army Corps of Engineers to curb the amount of water draining from Georgia reservoirs into Alabama and Florida. And Georgia's environmental protection director is drafting proposals for more water restrictions. But that may not be enough to stave off the water crisis. More than a quarter of the Southeast is covered by an "exceptional" drought _ the National Weather Service's worst drought category. The Atlanta area, with a population of 5 million, is smack in the middle of the affected region, which extends like a dark cloud over most of Tennessee, Alabama and the northern half of Georgia, as well as parts of North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. AP/AccessNorthGa.com_ 10/19/07

Water snitches become first line of enforcement
In Douglas County, Ga. this week 15 people have been caught in the middle of the night breaking a watering ban and had their water turned off on the spot and only turned back on after they paid a $25 fine.  The water crisis in metro Atlanta — shrinking supplies, growing paranoia — has suddenly come to street justice. And it likely will get uglier before it gets better. Or wetter.  Water authorities around the metro area have relied on neighbors to turn on neighbors for turning on water.  It turns out there's plenty of homeowners willing to be sprinkler snitchers.  "I'm not aware of any other county being as proactive as we are, but I expect they will be pretty soon," says Mike Patton, spokesman for the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority which began street patrols this week to catch people wet-handed.  Other metro counties — Gwinnett and Cobb — are patrolling streets looking for water scofflaws. Gwinnett County has issued about 200 warnings and 20 citations since the statewide outdoor watering ban took effect on Sept. 28. The county has also relied on neighbors telling on neighbors.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_10/18/07

Alabama adds new complaints to its 17-year-old water-sharing law suit

The state of Alabama has added new complaints about the Atlanta area's water usage and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to its 17-year-old lawsuit over shared water resources. The state filed papers in Birmingham Thursday challenging the government's decision to hold more water in Georgia's Lake Allatoona, which serves the Atlanta metro area. Alabama officials also contend the Atlanta metro area is being allowed to use more water than it is supposed to receive. Neither the state of Georgia nor the Army Corps has responded to the new claims, which come in a lawsuit filed in 1990 over water sharing between Alabama, Florida and Georgia. AP/WGCL_ 10/18/07

Corps sidesteps Georgia demand to reduce water flows to Florida; Georgia vows to sue

The Army Corps of Engineers sidestepped a demand Wednesday by Georgia officials to stop draining state reservoirs, setting up a legal showdown between the federal government and state officials who blame the policy for intensifying a record drought. "The corps' nonsensical action to further release vital water from Georgia's already depleted federal reservoirs must not stand," said Gov. Sonny Perdue. "There is simply no scientific justification to operate these reservoirs in this manner during a historic drought like the one we are experiencing." Florida and Alabama are urging the Corps to retain or even increase water supplies coming from Georgia. The corps, which manages the water usage between the states, said it is trying to abide by state and federal regulations by sending water downstream. "We are not unilaterally opposed to changing the flows," said Maj. Daren Payne, the deputy commander of the corps' Mobile, Ala., office. "But we'd be in violation of the law if we did now." In a letter sent Wednesday to Carol Couch, the state's environmental commissioner, the corps said it was abiding by federal water guidelines, but it was "exploring possible drought contingency options" to offer relief to the drought-stricken state. Georgia officials have said they were unprepared for the severity of the drought, which was compounded by scorching temperatures and a drier-than-normal hurricane season. As the drought worsened, Georgia politicians took aim at the corps, claiming its stubborn agenda intensified the state's water shortage. But environmentalists contend the state should have been better prepared for a water shortage, which they say is an inevitable result of decades of pro-growth policy that led to metro Atlanta's sprawl. "The corps has become a scapegoat for a lack of political leadership over the issue of water," said Jill Johnson, the interim director of Georgia Conservation Voters. "It's been massive unchecked development that's put further strain on our water supply." Macon Telegraph_ 10/18/07

Gov. Sonny Perdue: Georgia taking Corps of Engineers to court over water releases to Florida

Governor Sonny Perdue announced Wednesday that the state of Georgia will seek a court order this week requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to restrict water flows from Lake Lanier and Georgia’s federal reservoirs. “The Corps’ nonsensical action to further release vital water from Georgia’s already depleted federal reservoirs must not stand,” said Perdue. “There is simply no scientific justification to operate these reservoirs in this manner during a historic drought like the one we are experiencing. The Corps’ current operation of the basin will only cause greater harm to the very endangered species they claim to be protecting. If, however, the Corps is determined to make this ill-advised choice in favor of mussel and sturgeon species over Georgia citizens, then I must do all within my power to protect our citizens during this devastating drought." AP/AccessNorthGa.com_ 10/17/07

Corps promises response to Perdue demands later today

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to deliver a letter to Gov. Perdue by this afternoon, outlining its response to the state's demands that it stop releasing so much water from Lake Lanier. Maj. Darren Payne tells Georgia News Network they won't be able to meet those demands, but they hope to avoid legal action, which has been threatened by Perdue. The governor gave the Corps until today to come up with a plan or the state would sue. As for all those predictions that Atlanta won't be able to get drinking water from Lanier in another four months if things don't change, Maj. Payne says "it's not quite that dire." Payne says the could pull water out of another area "below the storage pool to keep services going" something that was suggested by a speaker at a water management meeting in Oakwood last night. Georgia, Florida and Alabama have been fighting for nearly two decades over water rights from two river basins. The other states say metro Atlanta's booming growth is draining so much water that it threatens not only endangered species but also industries in Alabama and the Appalachicola Bay oyster industry in Florida. AccessNorthGa.com_ 10/17/07


More water restrictions likely in Alabama

More than half of Alabama's 4.5 million residents already are living under water restrictions because of the choking dry weather, and officials said more cutbacks may be needed as the drought worsens through the fall. State officials say 38 community water systems have mandatory restrictions and another 96 have sought voluntary cutbacks on water use, and more water rules are likely based on predictions for a dry fall and winter. Gadsden's water board approved a $1-a-month bill increase to help pay for additional chemicals that officials said were needed because the drought has damaged water quality. The city draws water from the Coosa River, which is already a foot low and dropping because Georgia is holding more water for use there. All nine members of Alabama's congressional delegation wrote Army Secretary Pete Green this week complaining that the Army Corps of Engineers was letting Georgia draw too much water from Lake Allatona, which is located on the Coosa. AP/USA Today_ 10/16/07

Georgia congressmen introduce legislation to exempt state from Endangered Species Act during drought to curtail water shipments to Florida

Members of Georgia’s congressional delegation have introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House to alleviate the current water crisis by allowing states suffering from droughts to be exempt temporarily from the Endangered Species Act, which in Georgia is threatening our low water supply by taking away large amounts of water from north Georgia and sending it downstream to protect mussels and sturgeon in Florida. Specifically, the legislation would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to allow a state to be exempt from the Act when the Secretary of the Army or a Governor declares that drought conditions are threatening the health, safety and welfare of residents in a region served by a river basin managed by the federal government. U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have introduced the legislation in the Senate and members of Georgia’s delegation introduced the legislation in the House. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R, said, “We’ve got to have some common sense here. We have varying needs throughout our river basins, and striking the right balance requires the cooperation of many different stakeholders. However, in times like these, when the health and safety of our human population is threatened and we have exhausted all means to find a solution, it is a logical conclusion that the provisions of the Endangered Species Act should be temporarily suspended so that a short term fix can be provided." Last week, in a letter to the Corps, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue requested the immediate alteration of all Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint reservoir releases, so that releases from Woodruff Dam at Lake Seminole are only equivalent to inflows, up to 5,000 cubic feet per second. The letter stipulates that any additional inflows above 5,000 cubic feet per second will be stored. In order to make a short-term immediate impact on Georgia’s water supply, Governor Perdue has requested this action be taken immediately, and kept in place until March 1, 2008. The Weekly_ 10/16/07

Southeast U.S. facing "ongoing water crisis"

If there's a Ground Zero for the epic drought that's tightening its grip on the South, it's once-mighty Lake Lanier, the Atlanta water source that's now a relative puddle surrounded by acres of dusty red clay. Little rain is in the forecast, and without it climatologists say the water source for more than 3 million people could run dry in just 90 days. "We're way beyond limiting outdoor water use. We're talking about indoor water use," said Jeff Knight, an environmental engineer for the college town of Athens, 60 miles northeast of Atlanta, which is preparing a last-ditch rationing program as its reservoir also dries up. About 26 percent of the Southeast is covered by an "exceptional" drought — the National Weather Service's worst drought category. The affected area extends like a dark cloud over most of Tennessee, Alabama and the northern half of Georgia, as well as parts of North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. AP/Seattle Times_ 10/16/07

Head of Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce backs legal action against the Corps to slow water releases

One of the state's most prominent business leaders said Monday the record-breaking drought gripping Georgia is now the top threat to Atlanta's economy and that the crisis could be a ``dress rehearsal'' for future droughts if the Legislature doesn't take action. Sam Williams, the president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce also said the business community is prepared to stand behind a legal challenge that aims to stop the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the flow of Georgia's reservoirs into other states, from releasing more water. ``At some point, we need to talk about injunctive relief,'' he said. The comment comes days after Gov. Sonny Perdue warned that the state could take legal action if the Army Corps of Engineers continues to release water into Alabama from a water basin in northwest Georgia. Georgia's drought ranks among its worst in recorded history. By late August, triple-digit temperatures and low rainfall caused stream flows and lake levels to reach record lows. Some 70 of Georgia's 159 counties were classified as ``exceptional'' drought conditions, 40 were categorized as ``extreme'' and 15 as ``severe." AP/AccessNorthGa.com_ 10/15/07

Georgia considers drought options almost unheard of for metropolitan areas

If Georgia orders watering restrictions in metro Atlanta beyond the current outdoor ban, it will be taking drought-fighting steps that not even arid Southern California or Las Vegas has had to make. As the state considers restrictions on commercial and industrial users, water experts around the nation say they don't recall any major U.S. metro area being forced into such dire drought measures in about two decades. "Most large metropolitan areas have systems in place where they try to be better managers of the resource than that," said Don Wilhite, who founded the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has been involved in drought responses for at least three decades. Within two weeks, Georgia Environmental Protection Division director Carol Couch is expected to send Gov. Sonny Perdue options to tighten water restrictions. Couch has authority to limit water use as necessary with as little as five days' notice. State law says, "In the event of a dire emergency, only water for domestic and personal uses, for drinking, cooking, washing, sanitary purposes and all health related activities will be permitted. Farm uses will be given second priority; however, all other usages will be established by the Director." Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 10/15/07

Georgia's U.S. Senators praise Gov. Sonny Perdue's solution to Corps of Engineers on excess water releases

U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today praised Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue for offering a pragmatic solution to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the excess release of water from Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint reservoirs. “Governor Perdue has provided the Corps with a reasonable solution to a critical shortage of Georgia’s water resources, and it is imperative that Corps responds to Georgia’s request immediately,” Isakson said. “Despite doing everything to conserve all possible water resources, Georgia is in a crisis with respect to water,” said Chambliss. On September 28, 2007, after judges involved in Alabama, Georgia water mediation announced that the talks had broken down, Isakson and Chambliss sent a letter to Secretary of the Army Pete Geren strongly urging him to honor his pledge to update the water control plan. The Weekly_ 10/12/07

Gov. Sonny Perdue urges Army Corps to slow Georgia water release

Federal officials must allow drought-stricken Georgia to slow the flow of water from its reservoirs, including Lake Lanier, or the state will face a severe water shortage that could affect millions of residents, the state's environmental commissioner warned in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday. Perdue threatened legal action unless the Corps agrees to the state's temporary fix by Oct. 17. Perdue wants the Corps to allow Georgia to curb the release of water from North Georgia's parched lakes so that the amount of water flowing downstream doesn't exceed that being taken in. The restrictions would stay in effect until March 2008 to give Georgia's reservoirs time to replenish themselves. Currently, large amounts of Georgia water are sent downstream to neighboring Florida and Alabama. The drought has heightened tensions among the three states, which have been locked in an ongoing dispute over how to manage the region's limited water supply. AP/AccessNorthGeorgia.com_ 10/12/07

Georgia's Lake Lanier, the main source of Atlanta's water, has three months of water storage left

Lake Sidney Lanier, metro Atlanta's main source of water, has about three months of storage left, according to state and federal officials. That's three months before there's not enough water for more than 3 million metro Atlantans to take showers, flush their toilets and cook. Three months before there's not enough water in parts of the Chattahoochee River for power plants to make the steam necessary to generate electricity. Three months before part of the river runs dry. "We've never experienced this situation before," state Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch said of the record-breaking drought and fast-falling lake. In two weeks, Couch plans to give Gov. Sonny Perdue a list of options to further restrict water use by businesses and industries, along with an analysis of potential water savings and estimated job losses. A Pepsico Inc. plant that produces Gatorade, which is the biggest water user in the city of Atlanta, is figuring out ways to cut down further on its use in the next 30 days. Coca-Cola is waiting to see what restrictions might be imposed at its Atlanta syrup plant, but has already cut back as part of a corporate water conservation plan. October is normally the year's driest month, and climatologists say another dry, warm winter is ahead. Metro Atlanta's water fate also depends largely on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that owns and operates Buford Dam and the 38,000-acre lake that sits behind it, bordered by Gwinnett, Hall and Forysth Counties. The Corps' water releases are based on two key requirements: the minimum flow needed to operate Plant Scholtz, Gulf Power's small coal-fired facility just below Lake Seminole, and federal mandates to protect two mussel species in a Florida river. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 10/11/07

Alabama Power Co. reducing water flow from dams; Corps questions its authority

Alabama Power Co., in a bid to slow the drop in water levels at Lake Martin and other storage reservoirs, on Sunday started reducing the amount of water it releases from its dams on the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, a spokesman said Monday. The phased reduction, by the time it's completed in about a month, is planned to cut combined water releases from the dams by more than half, to about 2,000 cubic feet per second, utility spokesman Michael Sznajderman said. The Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers merge near Wetumpka to form the Alabama River. All five of the utility's storage reservoirs on the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers - Weiss, Neely Henry, Logan Martin, Lake Martin and Lake Harris - already are below their normal annual low water levels, or winter pools. Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates dams on the Alabama River, don't think Alabama Power has the authority to unilaterally impose its planned cut in water releases, said Col. Byron Jorns, who commands the Corps' Mobile District.

Birmingham News_ 10/9/07

Southeastern U.S. drought may last longer than expected

Last week, Georgia announced a Level 4 Drought and issued a ban on all outdoor watering because of continued dry conditions. Now weather forecasters are saying the drought may continue to worsen for several more months. Just today, meteorologists at the Climate Prediction Center have announced they're expecting a mild winter with drier than normal conditions across the southeast. It predicts the drought will last longer than expected, causing lakes and rivers to continue to shrink. But meteorologists warn this prediction is only one of many models. WTVM_ 10/9/07

Georgia, Alabama water wars return to court

Georgia and Alabama can't come to terms on a water-sharing agreement, and that means the two states will go back to federal court. The two states have been in mediation with a former federal judge since April 2006, trying to agree on how best to use the water supply in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin. Lawyers said they are at an impasse, and they have asked U.S. District Judge Karen Bowdre of the Northern Alabama District in Birmingham to continue the argument in her courtroom. Bowdre has set a trial schedule through mid-2008. Alabama has argued that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not release enough water downstream from Lakes Allatoona and Carter in north Georgia. The state of Georgia has claimed the Corps is releasing too much. AccessNorthGeorgia_ 10/9/07

Corps cuts water flow into Alabama from Georgia lakes

Despite criticism by Gov. Bob Riley, the Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday reduced water flow into Alabama by cutting releases by at least 129.25 million gallons a day from Allatoona Lake in north Georgia. The lake feeds a tributary of the Coosa River, which joins with the Tallapoosa River near Wetumpka to form the Alabama River. "We must reduce generation from Allatoona to prevent depletion of the lake and endanger reservoir refilling in the face of the increasing probability of a multiyear drought," said Lisa Coghlan, a spokeswoman with the Corps in Mobile. Also Wednesday, Alabama Power official Alan Peeples said the utility starting Monday would go through with plans it announced last week to more than halve the amount of water it releases for the Alabama River from dams on the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers. The reductions are intended to slow the drop in lake levels at Lake Martin, Logan Martin Lake and Alabama Power's other storage reservoirs on the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers. Birmingham News_ 10/4/07

Water rationing possible for northeast Georgia

Parts of northeast Georgia should be bracing for the possibility of water rationing starting next month if the drought continues, according to the Athens-Clarke County Manager. Alan Reddish says Athens-Clarke County will need to begin rationing water by Thanksgiving and the Bear Creek Reservoir will run out of water by Christmas. The Bear Creek Reservoir is the primary water source for Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Jackson and Oconee counties. He recommended that the Athens-Clarke County Commission approve so-called ``Step F'' water restrictions on November 21 if the drought does not improve. And, that's not likely to happen, according to state climatologist David Stooksbury. Step F involves prioritizing uses of water, such as for drinking and fire protection, in an emergency drought management plan, but county officials still are working on a list of priorities. Meanwhile, University of Georgia President Michael Adams announced Tuesday that the school is forming a task force to come up with more ways to conserve water -- both during the drought and long term. AP/AccessNorthGa.com_ 10/4/07

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley questions Corps cutting water flow at Lake Allatoona

Gov. Bob Riley denounced the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to reduce the amount of water flowing downstream to Alabama from Lake Allatoona in Georgia, beginning today, saying it threatens water supplies, water quality and the state economy. The Corps announced last month it would reduce by half the flow of water from Lake Allatoona, which feeds the Coosa River, a waterway that flows into Weiss Lake near Centre in Cherokee County and joins the Tallapoosa north of Montgomery forming the Alabama River. In a letter Tuesday to the commander of the Corps of Engineer's Mobile district, Col. Byron Jorns, Riley said the federal agency's decision would have "serious consequences" for Alabama, where a severe drought has caused lake levels to drop to record lows for this time of year and threatened water supplies for some Alabama communities. He said the decision also would affect water quality. "The quality of water entering Alabama at Lake Weiss on the state line has teetered on the edge of failing to meet minimum water quality standards all summer," Riley said. "There can be little doubt that the radical reduction in water flows resulting from your decision will cause the water entering Alabama to consistently fail the most basic water quality standards." Corps of Engineers spokesman Pat Robbins said Corps officials had just seen the governor's letter Tuesday afternoon and would have no immediate comment. Riley did not say what action the state might take to stop the reduction in water flow.

AP/Montgomery Advertiser_ 10/3/07

Georgia's U.S. Senators urge Secretary of the Army to update Georgia, Alabama, Florida river water plan; cite "impasse" in court mediation

U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., on Friday sent a letter to the Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, strongly urging him to honor his pledge to update the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ outdated water control plan for the two river basins that serve Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Isakson and Chambliss attached a September 13, 2007, letter from Judge Charles B. Renfrew to Judge Karen Bowdre. In this letter, Judge Renfrew states “we are at an impasse in the mediation between Alabama and Georgia,” and “there is not any prospect of reaching a resolution at the present time or for the foreseeable future.” Judge Renfrew closes his letter by saying “I do not see any purpose served in extending the period of mediation.” Isakson said “In recent years, Alabama has challenged every Georgia water permit in federal court and has refused to negotiate in good faith to resolve problems in these basins.” The Weekly_ 10/1/07

September, 2007

Georgia official calls on Alabama to enact water restrictions

Alabama should join Georgia in restricting water use, Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olens said Saturday night. "It's wrong that Alabama has no water restrictions, but we've got to do the right thing," said Olens, who serves on the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority and is chairman of the metrowide Atlanta Regional Commission. "It's time for them to share the pain." Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 9/29/07

Drought threatens drinking water supply of Alexander City, Alabama

Officials coping with a severe drought in eastern Alabama and western Georgia issued sweeping bans Friday on outdoor watering and scrambled to secure a dwindling supply of drinking water to more than 50,000 people. Divers went into Lake Martin looking for ways to increase the depth around intake pipes that drain water from the massive lake into the water system for Alexander City, 44 miles northeast of Montgomery on the Georgia line. Lake Martin is the only source of water for the Alexander City system. "The water is so low the pumps are shutting down on us," said Eugene Mahan, superintendent of water treatment for the system, which provides drinking water to about 50,000 to 60,000 people in east central Alabama, including to about 15,100 residents of Alexander City. "This is not just about recreation, it's not about washing cars, this is drinking water," Mayor Barbara Young said. "We've got to have some rain." The drought has exacerbated a long-standing feud between Georgia, Alabama and Florida over how the Army Corps of Engineers manages water rights. AP/Charlotte Observer_ 9/28/07

Lake Allatoona cutbacks enacted
Water sent to Alabama reduced by a third

With Lake Allatoona dropping about a foot a week, officials announced plans Wednesday to reduce water being released downstream to Alabama by one-third. It's the latest effort to deal with an unyielding drought parching much of the Southeast.  Douglas Otto Jr., chief hydrologist for the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said without the reductions — and if the drought continues as is — Allatoona could be empty by February.  Even with the reductions, Otto said there's a concern Allatoona, which started out low this summer, will not be able to reach its normal level next summer. Indicators show an increasing probability that the extreme drought, which began in 2006, will continue.  On some days, more water is evaporating off Allatoona and being pulled out for drinking water than is entering the lake through its rivers and streams.  "If that trend were to continue through the winter, which all indicators are that it will, and if we don't cut back at Allatoona, we're just going to run out of water," Otto said.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_9/26/07

Hurricane Humberto didn't relieve Alabama, Georgia drought: Corps of Engineers

Rains from the remnants of Hurricane Humberto did not provide relief for the drought that has dropped lake levels to near record lows in Alabama and jeopardized its river system as it gets less water from a key Georgia lake, a federal official said Wednesday. Col. Byron Jorns, district commander of the U.S. Corps of Engineers in Mobile, told a weekly drought task force teleconference that rains from Humberto last week provided only temporary help in Alabama and Georgia, where the Corps plans to cut the water flow from Altoona Lake, which feeds into Alabama rivers. Alabama Power Co. spokesman Michael Sznajderman said in an interview later that the reduction of water from Altoona Lake would cut the flow of water coming into the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Alabama rivers by about a third. He said it could force Alabama Power to reduce the flow of water to the Alabama River, but said that would not happen until an important dredging project is completed. AP/AccessNorthGeorgia_ 9/20/07

Georgia, Florida join in effort to battle water hyacinth

An environmental group from Florida spent Tuesday and today on the Little River at Reed Bingham State Park spraying the weeds which have been causing problems in both Georgia and Florida streams. John Layer, president of Florida Environmental Consultants, Inc., said Florida had problems with water hyacinth in the Withlacoochee and Suwanee Rivers. After removing the weeds in Florida, it was believed the weeds had drifted down the Little River at Reed Bingham into the Withlacoochee, so the group came up north to help address the problem here. Reed Bingham Park Manager Chet Powell said the project was being paid for by a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The project between the two states is significant because it shows Georgia and Florida working together on a common problem, Powell said. Moultrie Observer_ 9/18/07

Florida, Georgia, Alabama water war still hot as drought continues and court cases move along

The recent rainfall has done little to take the edge off the current drought, which already is setting records. And it's done nothing to douse the sparks between Georgia and Alabama, which are still battling over waters in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin, including Allatoona and Carters lakes in northwest Georgia. During a teleconference last week with representatives from both states, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said they are considering a reduction in the amount of water released from Allatoona Lake by the end of this month — a move strongly opposed by Alabama. Allatoona, which provides drinking water for Cobb County and other northwest metro Atlanta communities, has dropped 6 1/2 feet since the beginning of August, and is now more than 11 feet below full. The low lake level has exacerbated problems with an algae bloom in the lake, leading to some odor and taste complaints about the drinking water. Alabama officials contend metro Atlanta is getting more than its fair share of water. This week, the two states and Florida will square off again in court over another waterway — the Chattahoochee River. Separate lawsuits over the river have been bundled into one case being heard in the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida by Judge Paul A. Magnuson from the District of Minnesota. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 9/17/07

More dry weather: La Niña water issued for Alabama, Florida and Georgia    

A La Niña watch has been issued by the Southeast Climate Consortium and the state climatologists of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. A watch means that conditions are likely for the development of a full-fledged La Niña event. The watch will be followed by an official La Niña declaration if development continues in the next one to three months. La Niña conditions usually bring a warmer and drier cool season (October through March) to Florida, central and lower Alabama, and central and south Georgia. La Niña is commonly thought of as the opposite of El Niño. Under La Niña conditions, sea surface temperatures along the equator in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean are a few degrees colder than normal for a minimum of five months. La Niña typically returns every two to seven years. With the arrival of La Niña, there is a good chance that drought conditions, currently ranging from exceptional across much of Alabama and Georgia to moderate in south Florida, will continue and possibly worsen throughout the winter and into next spring. AccessNorthGeorgia.com_ 9/11/07

Georgia and Alabama lawmakers press head of the Army on state water access

Army Secretary Pete Geren has a war in Iraq to manage. But he spent much of his time Thursday getting up to speed on a long-standing feud over how the Army Corps of Engineers manages water rights between Georgia and Alabama. Geren held separate meetings with lawmakers from both states, demonstrating that anxiety over a prolonged drought is pushing water concerns to the highest levels of government. Although both sides came away saying Geren seemed to appreciate their complaints, the discussions appear to have ended just as they have for years -- with little resolution in sight. AP/Montgomery Advertiser_ 9/8/07

United Alabama congressional delegation complains to Army head about Corps of Engineers water allocations from Georgia

Alabama's congressional delegation complained Thursday, in person, to Army Secretary Pete Geren that the Army Corps of Engineers is not fairly allocating water between Georgia and Alabama. The ongoing interstate dispute has become increasingly political, with elected officials in both states getting more involved and taking their complaints to higher authorities. "We basically told the secretary and his staff that we felt the corps was not being fair to Alabama and that Georgia was getting more than their share, especially in the Atlanta area, while we were parching and burning, and we thought it was the responsibility of the corps to be equitable about this," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. A key issue is the level of Allatoona Lake north of Atlanta. Alabama officials contend that the corps is not releasing enough water from the area to flow downstream into the Alabama/Coosa/Tallapoosa river basin. The water system is key for drinking water, navigation, recreation, and hydroelectric power. Geren is the top Army official at the Pentagon and his office oversees the Army Corps of Engineers. Efforts to reach a spokesman for the corps in Mobile and Washington were unsuccessful Thursday afternoon. Shelby said Geren also was scheduled to meet with Georgia's congressional delegation later on Thursday. A representative of the corps' Mobile office said Wednesday in a conference call that releases from Allatoona were likely to be reduced further by Sept. 30 because of concerns about a multiyear drought. Geren did not offer any potential solutions, Sheby and Sessions said. The fight over how to allocate water in the two river basins that affect Alabama, Georgia and Florida started about 17 years ago and has involved lengthy court fights and legislative battles. Birmingham News_ 9/7/07

At age 50, Georgia's Lake Lanier is struggling

In the 50 years since the federal reservoir filled up, Lake Sidney Lanier helped make it possible for the region to grow to its current population of 4 million. The skinny rivers nature provided could not have done it alone. But the breakneck growth has brought serious pollution to Lanier, most of it swept in with stormwater runoff whenever it rains. It includes the flushings of countless septic tanks that seep into the groundwater and eventually the lake, joined by millions of gallons of treated sewage poured in legally by cities and industries. For now, Lanier, named for a Macon-born poet and Confederate soldier, is big enough and clean enough to handle it. Even in the second year of a historic drought, with the lake more than 7 feet below full, Lanier is fulfilling its many critical functions. It's one of the most popular federal reservoirs in the nation, logging more than 7 million visitor days a year, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Most important for metro Atlanta, the 38,000-acre lake is the region's largest canteen. Every day it delivers copious amounts of water to fill sinks and swimming pools, to green lawns and gardens. So essential is Lanier, it's the reason Georgia is locked in a bitter and expensive tri-state water war with Alabama and Florida. Both states clamor for the federal government to release more water from the lake for their benefit. The question is, how long can Lanier keep it up? Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 8/12/07

Columbus, Georgia to sue Corps of Engineers over Chattahoochee River water rights

In a unanimous vote Tuesday evening, Columbus Council gave the city the go-ahead to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to guarantee that the city receives an adequate amount of water. The plaintiffs in the suit would be the Columbus Water Works and the Columbus Consolidated Government. The state of Georgia already is a party to two other water lawsuits that have been merged with actions by Alabama and Florida. Weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Division and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's office expressed concerns that some passages of the lawsuit could be construed as anti-Atlanta. State officials were concerned about passages that alleged the Corps is reserving water in Lake Lanier for metro Atlanta communities. And recently, Perdue voiced opposition to Columbus filing its own suit. Although the city's supply of drinking water isn't in peril, what is at risk is the city's ability to dump treated wastewater back into the river in compliance with its permit. Columbus Ledger-Enquirer_ 8/8/07

Too much water released from Allatoona, Perdue says

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on Thursday responded to his Alabama counterpart's call for more water , saying the U.S. government is releasing too much from Lake Allatoona.  In a letter to U.S. Army Secretary Pete Geren, Perdue said Alabama Gov. Bob Riley's request for higher releases would "drain Lake Allatoona precipitously" while giving Alabama little drought relief.  "In a drought of this magnitude, we must be extremely careful not to deplete the storage in Lake Allatoona," wrote Perdue.  Georgia and Alabama have been in a legal battle since 1990 over the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin that flows from northwest Georgia to Alabama's Mobile Bay. A federal judge in Birmingham is overseeing the case. This latest political joust involving the two Republican governors is a reminder that the water wars may not be over, and that droughts induce more fighting.  The two states, with Florida, are also in a battle over the waters in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which flow from North Georgia to Florida's Apalachicola Bay. Separate suits involving those waters were bundled into one case earlier this year and transferred to a neutral federal judge from Minnesota.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_7/19/07

Alabama shelves statewide water plan due to lawsuits, drought, leadership turnover, lack of political will

Alabama has no comprehensive water policy, and work to draft rules governing water withdrawals has all but stopped. A committee formed several years ago to draft a policy hasn't met in about a year, said Jim Miller, chairman of the Alabama Water Resources Commission and general manager of the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board. Complicating the process also has been the sensitivity of publicly discussing water policy issues during the legal battles between Alabama, Georgia and Florida over river water withdrawals, said Miller and Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, who led the fight for several laws to prohibit outsiders from tapping into the Tennessee River. Birmingham News_ 7/16/07

Water levels in Georgia's West Point Lake a concern as Corps of Engineers aids Florida river

The Army Corp of Engineers is removing large amounts of water from West Point Lake near Lagrange in Troup County and sending it to Florida. West Point Lake is a big tourist attraction for Lagrange. But because the water levels are getting lower, some visitors may be looking elsewhere for summer fun. Over the past two years water levels have dropped seven feet. The Army Corp of Engineers is taking water from West point lake and sending it to the Apalachicola river in Florida. The project is to help protect aquatic life such as mussels. The army corps of engineers has been taking public input this week in Georgia and in Florida. No word on whether these meeting will lead to a change on how they distribute the water. WRBL_ 7/12/07

Ga. Water Council unveils first draft of state water plan

The Georgia Water Council on Thursday presented its much-awaited proposal for a comprehensive plan for the state's water management, aimed at providing adequate water for a growing population while protecting river systems and groundwater from pollution.  The 14-member council will begin reviewing the 81-page document over the next few weeks. Starting in mid-July, the agency hopes to get its first public input on the issue through its Web site, with a formal public hearing process to take place across the state later this summer. The final plan is expected to be approved by the early December, and presented to the General Assembly one the first day of the 2008 legislative session.  Authors of the plan say it is the first that addresses Georgia's water needs over the long term as a state, instead of locally and in response to specific issues like the ongoing drought. The proposal calls for a plan that functions like a cycle instead of a one-time process.  First, the Environmental Protection Division will conduct water resource assessments to determine the state's water quantity and quality. Regional water planning councils will then use population and employment estimates to forecast water needs for their areas. From the forecasts, a plan will be created and proposed to the EPD.  After the plan is adopted by the agency, it would be implemented and the EPD will make water permitting decisions based on those plans. My Fox Atlanta_6/28/07

Columbus, Georgia may join Georgia, Alabama, Florida water war

The City of Columbus may be firing the next salvo in the water wars. In a closed-door, session Tuesday afternoon, Columbus City Councilors discussed whether the city will become a plaintiff in possible litigation against the Army Corps of Engineers, in the ongoing water wars involving the Chattahoochee river. The head of Columbus Water Works says if the city has to maintain the current flow, there is considerable risk of Columbus not having enough water. If Columbus City Council votes to move forward with the lawsuit, it would be joining other cities in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. WRBL_ 6/19/07

Minnesota judge asked to handle tri-state water fight

The tri-state water war involving Alabama, Florida and Georgia has bounced around four courts over almost two decades. Now, it could finally be decided in a Florida court - by a judge from Minnesota.  A federal panel of judges decided this week to group four lawsuits filed by the three states and federal hydropower customers into one case. It will be handled by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson, who handled arguments several years ago over access to the Missouri River.  Georgia, Alabama and Florida have been locked in a battle for years over limited water resources. The dispute with Alabama and Florida centers on how to manage the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin and another river basin that is the main water source for metro Atlanta.  A judge has ordered the states to broker an agreement, but they have three times asked for an extension. The latest deadline set is March 30.  AccesNorthGa.com_3/22/07

Plans keep water safe, plentiful
Atlanta to Africa, areas benefit

In a tiny African village, elders meet to discuss where their families and livestock might best relocate to live near a source of water. The riverbed that served their community for generations is now parched and cracked, and there is no money for tools to search for well water.  At the same time, here in Atlanta, experts gather at City Hall for a roundtable on the area's pending water crisis. The news that "Florida seeks control over Lake Lanier, Chattahoochee and Flint rivers," isn't putting anyone's mind at ease; and experts are warning that Atlanta will run out of water by 2015 unless drastic conservation methods start right away.  As bad as it seems, the good news is that we have time to turn the tide. We can adopt conservation measures here to keep our taps running. Our counterparts in hundreds of African, Asian and Latin American villages won't be so lucky — many of them don't have a working well or tap within miles. Without a concerted effort from those of us in richer nations, things will only get worse for men, women and children who live in arid nations becoming drier each year due to global warming.  Another bit of good news: Atlanta-based academic institutions, city government, domestic and international nonprofits, and corporations are working together fervently to solve not only Atlanta's water problems but to address issues of access, conservation and water quality faced by people around the world.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_3/22/07

Georgia House urges Congress and Corps of Engineers to consider raising reservoir water levels to solve dispute with Florida and Alabama

Georgia House members think they have a solution to a tri-state battle over water including that in Lake Lanier: raising the level of Georgia's reservoirs. The House unanimously agreed Friday to ask Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study raising the water levels in Georgia's lakes. Georgia, Alabama and Florida have been locked in a battle for years over limited water resources. Last month, the states asked a judge for more time to work out a complex water-sharing agreement. The dispute with Alabama and Florida centers on how to manage the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin and another river basin that is the main water source for metro Atlanta. A judge has ordered the states to broker an agreement, but they have three times asked for an extension. AP/Access North Georgia_ 2/10/07

Georgia, Florida and Alabama ask federal court to extend deadline for water-sharing agreement

The states want another two months to talk and requested an extension until March 30. Today was to have been the deadline for reaching an agreement. If granted, it would be the third deadline extension to the talks ordered last year by U.S. District Court Judge Karon Bowdre of the Northern District of Alabama. Representatives from the three states met in Atlanta January 18 to discuss the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin. The states said in the request filed last week in Alabama's federal court that they are asking for the extension because they are making progress in the mediation. AP/Access North Georgia_ 1/31/07

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