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Georgia wins victory in water wars dispute with state of Florida

| Mar 21, 2017 | Environmental Law |

We’ve previously written on this blog about the water dispute between Georgia and Florida concerning water use caps. The basic dispute is that neighboring states have long held that Georgia uses an unfair amount of water from the Apalachicola-Cattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which threatens the economies of the other states. Florida had requested limitations on Georgia’s use of water, and that request was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

The case recently came to a conclusion of sorts when it was determined that Georgia’s use of water from the two rivers should not be subject to limitations, no matter what long-term consequences there might be for the state of Florida. That decision was reached after an attorney assigned by the Supreme Court to handle the case found that the state of Florida had not satisfactorily shown that a water use cap was necessary.

The decision is certainly a victory for the state of Georgia, but one which the state may have to be prepared to defend as its water policy could still be subject to federal legislative challenge. In addition, the case highlighted areas where the state of Georgia may be well-advised to increase its oversight of water use.

For example, the report submitted by the attorney to the court showed that agricultural water use in South Georgia is not adequately measured and that the state does not have sure way of knowing whether its water consumption is reasonable. Part of the reason for this is that the state of Georgia apparently does not limit the amount of irrigation that may be done when agriculture permits are issued.

One of the challenging aspects of the water dispute, of course, is that for some Georgians, there are fundamental water rights at stake.  In our next post, we’ll take a further look at this point.

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