What is needed is compromise and good-faith negotiation. Thanks in part to the Georgia Legislature, that may be happening.
For more than two decades, Alabama, Florida and Georgia have fussed over how much water should flow down the Chattahoochee River. The metro Atlanta area has grown too fast, and to solve its water needs, it long ago turned Lake Lanier, which impounds the Chattahoochee, into its major source of water.
Alabama and Florida believe that water should go to them.
Last July, a federal judge ruled that metro Atlanta had no right to that water. He declared that if a water-sharing agreement was not reached by 2012, the metro area would be reduced to the equivalent of its water-usage levels of the 1970s. That would give that region only 25 percent of the water it now uses and cost businesses there an estimated $26 billion.
Some in Georgia feared that the state would have to apply for federal disaster relief if that scenario occurred.
Expectably, Georgia appealed the judge’s ruling. But Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue also put together a package of water-conservation measures in an effort to reach a compromise with his neighbors before the judge’s approaching deadline.
Last week, the Georgia Legislature passed the package. Considering the long-standing intractability of Georgia officials during the water war, Georgia’s legislative action should not be undersold.
One can argue that many of the things in Perdue’s proposals should have been done years ago — like requiring low-flow faucets and toilets be installed in new construction, and ordering a watering ban during certain hours in the summer. Yet, those are meaningful measures, even at such a late time in this process.
It’s true that the housing construction boom has passed and requiring water-saving plumbing fixtures on today’s new houses will make only a small dent in Georgia’s problem.
Nevertheless, this is what compromise is about.
Georgia is bringing something new to the table; that is good. Negotiators from Alabama and Florida must be ready with a counter-proposal, such as retrofitting public buildings with those water-saving devices and more stringent watering limits.
This is a move in the right direction. Perhaps an equitable end to this escapade is in sight.