No Water Sharing Deal Yet for Two Southern States

The Aug. 1 deadline has passed without a water-sharing agreement between Georgia and Alabama.

The key obstacle to reaching agreement is a provision that would allow metro Atlanta to triple its consumption of water from Lake Allatoona in northwest Georgia. This dispute seems destined for a return to federal court.

In April 2003, the two sides signed a tentative agreement over the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin, which includes Allatoona Lake and is the drinking water source for Cartersville and Rome.

But the states reactivated their lawsuits over sharing water from the Chattahoochee River after a similar agreement among Georgia, Alabama and Florida expired last August.

The Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa agreement would allow metro Atlanta to draw three times more water out of Allatoona over the next 30 years, and send nearly half (about 100 million gallons per day) down the Chattahoochee River instead of keeping it in the Coosa River Basin. That would mean a net loss of water flowing past Rome and on into Weiss Lake in Alabama.

Alabama officials were willing to accept that scenario in return for a guaranteed minimum amount of water, even during droughts.

Officials from Florida are working on a case to take to the Supreme Court.

Negotiators for Georgia and Alabama worked in recent weeks to avoid the same fate for the Coosa River basin. On Saturday, they exchanged calls and e-mails but remained at an impasse.

The dispute over the Coosa River was considered simpler to solve than that over the Chattahoochee. The latter involves three states and supplies most of the water for metro Atlanta. However, the renewed fight over the Chattahoochee impacted the Coosa River talks. Georgia wanted Alabama to let metro Atlanta take more water out of the Chattahoochee as part of the deal for the Coosa, as well as in the event of a severe drought.

The Associated Press

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