A Sustainable Water Supply Can Change the Course of the Water War

Recent headlines* indicate that the simmering Water War between Georgia and Florida is heating up again.  Florida threatens to sue Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court, blaming the collapse of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery on what it considers to be metro Atlanta’s insatiable thirst, and the resulting decrease in fresh water flow down the Chattahoochee River to the Apalachicola River and into Apalachicola Bay. Georgia asserts the right to use water that falls on Georgia and flows through Georgia, and insists that the several million people in metro Atlanta should count more than endangered mussels along the Apalachicola River banks, and oysters in Apalachicola Bay. **

It might be thought that these threats and counter-responses are odd during this year of near-record rainfall.  But, there is one thing that is almost as sure as death and taxes:  Georgia will be in drought again – and in the near future.

Historical drought records show that Georgia was in drought for 45 percent or 50 out of the last 110 years. The frequency of droughts in Georgia is accelerating:  Georgia has been in drought 11 out of the last 20 years (55 percent), with the most recent one ending less than 12 months ago.

With that kind of certainty, and with more expensive litigation facing Georgia and its communities, what can water planners do to continue to deliver water reliably to the citizens of Georgia?  We hear that Georgia has one of the most aggressive water conservation programs in the nation, but is it enough?  Can the state’s water systems continue to supply water reliably to its citizens and businesses in the face of increasing drought and competing demands for our limited water supplies?

It turns out that there is much more we can do.  By implementing efficiency measures made possible by newly developed (and developing) technologies, our water systems can decrease costs drastically, and increase revenue, while meeting the projected and increased water demands over the coming – all without adding one drop of increased water supply.

I’ll be speaking about ways to develop a sustainable water supply in Georgia on August 22 at the Georgia Environmental Conference, held at the Jekyll Island Convention Center (Session 52, Adaptive Water Management, 11:00 a.m. – 12:25 p.m.).  For more information about the session or the event, contact me here or visit  I hope to see you there.

Steve O’Day

 *The Atlanta Journal Constitution (‘Water war’ back to high court? Page A1 of Wednesday, August 14, 2013  and Ga. digs in for water fight on Page A1 of Thursday, August 15, 2013)

** For more information on the history of the dispute, and on the law governing it, see my article published in the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law in 2009.

Leave a Reply

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap