As this page has pointed out before, to deny Atlanta the water it has been using all these years —illegally, maybe, but using nonetheless — would be a disaster for one of the economic engines that affects the entire Southeast.
In other words, it’s not a good idea.
As with any complicated case, it’s important to note how we got where we are today. Initially, a federal judge ruled that metro Atlanta had no right to withdraw drinking water from Lake Lanier because (a.) the lake was not created to supply drinking water and (b.) Atlanta refused to contribute to the building of the dam that created the reservoir because it did not need it for drinking water.
Georgia appealed. A federal court, ignoring the above points, ruled that Atlanta had a right to drinking water from Lake Lanier. Alabama and Florida appealed.
And this week, the nation’s highest court said no. It bravely let the lower court do its work for it.
It reminds one of the ditties sung by “Brave Sir Robin” in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”: “When danger reared its ugly head, he boldly turned his tail and fled.”
Nevertheless, Georgia is understandably overjoyed; Alabama and Florida, not so much. But Georgia should be careful because there is a potential fly in its ointment.
The U.S. Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam that contains the Lake Lanier reservoir, has re-evaluated Georgia’s claim and said it can handle the release of up to 705 million gallons of water from Lake Lanier by 2030. But there is a catch: That claim must be weighed against the needs of downstream communities in Alabama, Florida and southern Georgia, and it must take into consideration stream flow and the protection of endangered species. The Corps said it will conduct an environmental study before it makes a final decision on how much water Atlanta receives.
In short, there is more for the Corps to consider than Atlanta’s thirst.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, while happy with the Supreme Court’s decision, stressed that it was time for the governors to “work together and come to a long-term agreement that will provide for the water needs of all three states.”
Deal is correct. There’s been a need for a tri-state agreement for the longest time. Now, let us see if it will happen.