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Water wars ratchet up with this latest salvo from Georgia lawyers
06202020 LAKE 5
A 2-year effort by the Lake Lanier Association, Hall and Gwinnett counties, private businesses and the Army Corps of Engineers to restore Lake Lanier's many islands, which had been eroding from waves caused by passing boats, finished in May - photo by Scott Rogers

Georgia is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to effectively end a longstanding “water wars” battle by denying Florida’s request for “an equitable apportioning of waters” in the basin containing Lake Lanier. 

“After more than six years of litigation, it is now clear that Florida’s case was built on rhetoric and not on facts,” Georgia’s lawyers stated in a document Friday, June 26. 

The filing is in response to Florida asking the court in April to reject a Dec. 11 report by a special master who recommended that justices not grant Florida’s request for an equitable apportioning of waters in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, or the ACF Basin. 

Among Florida’s objections is that U.S. Circuit Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. found that Florida "has not been injured by Georgia’s increasing consumption" of waters in the ACF. 

Georgia is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to effectively end a longstanding “water wars” battle by denying Florida’s request for “an equitable apportioning of waters” in the basin containing Lake Lanier. 

“After more than six years of litigation, it is now clear that Florida’s case was built on rhetoric and not on facts,” Georgia’s lawyers stated in a document Friday, June 26. 

The filing is in response to Florida asking the court in April to reject a Dec. 11 report by a special master who recommended that justices not grant Florida’s request for an equitable apportioning of waters in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, or the ACF Basin. 

Among Florida’s objections is that U.S. Circuit Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. found that Florida "has not been injured by Georgia’s increasing consumption" of waters in the ACF. 

Georgia contends that while it accounts for more than 90% of the population, employment and “economic output” in the basin, the state’s total water consumption is 2.4% of “state line” flows in wet years and 6.1% in dry years, lawyers say.

And the state “puts the limited water it consumes to vital uses,” the brief states. “The Chattahoochee River is the primary water supply for the 4.2 million people who live in the Atlanta metropolitan area.” 

While Lake Lanier serves as ACF headwaters, the Apalachicola River spills into the Gulf of Mexico, where Florida claims it has suffered economic and ecological harm. 

Kelly said in his 81-page report, “The evidence has shown that Georgia’s water use is reasonable, and the evidence has not shown that the benefits of apportionment would substantially outweigh the potential harms.” 

The Supreme Court will now decide whether to accept Kelly’s recommendation as the water battle is sure to linger into a fourth decade, as other lawsuits dating to 1990 have come and gone.