Where will Atlanta's water come from? - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Where will Atlanta's water come from?

By Jay Polk - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  With a growing population, there is more demand for the same amount of water, fights over who gets how much are bound to occur.  This fight involves Georgia and it's two neighboring states, Florida and Alabama. But the people most affected are right here in Georgia.

South Georgia is blessed with an abundance of this one resource that no one can live without.

"The good thing for this part of the world is the aquifer system," said Doug Wilson of the Georgia Water Planning Center.

The Floridan aquifer supplies us with millions of gallons of fresh water. We certainly use our share, for both residential and agricultural use. But unlike other parts of the state, "something like 80% of the water used is for agriculture,"said Wilson. "The vast majority of Atlanta's water use is residential."

When the rains dry up, as they did in 2006 and 2007, so does the plentiful water supply for more than three million people. The city relies on water that is supplied by the Chattahoochee River.

When the levels on the river are low, water is usually drawn from Lake Lanier. But a recent court decision puts Atlanta's ability to take that water in question.

"What I understand that he said was that water supply isn't an authorized use of Lake Lanier."

The judge also ruled that counties in North Georgia had three years to come up with a plan to find a way to quench their thirsty population. If not, some counties such as Gwinnett, which relies exclusively on water from the lake, would have to do without. Wilson says that seems unlikely.

"We're not going to take water away from three million people," said Wilson.

If the ruling holds up, North Georgia will have to change the way it gets its water. So what does that mean for us here in South Georgia? Wilson says that there are two possibilities: either running a pipe to Metro Atlanta or building dams.

Both have one big problem- "You're talking about a tremendous undertaking."

Wilson says that either one of those options would take years to build and cost millions of dollars. So despite the temptation to take water from South Georgia, any actual system is a long way off. So, for now at least, we can continue to enjoy our abundance of liquid gold.

Wilson also told us that he thinks that this judge's decision will finally spur the city of Atlanta and all of the interests on the river to work out some kind of binding deal to share the water.

And this case is expected to draw national attention because there are plenty of other cities that will experience similar problems with their water supply in the future.


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