Court ruling may not end water war - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Court ruling may not end water war

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Paul DeLoach of Flint Riverkeeper Paul DeLoach of Flint Riverkeeper

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling this week allows Atlanta to continue to pull water from Lake Lanier, but water officials say that doesn't mean the water war is over.

The Army Corps of Engineers was given a year to set a protocol for how much water the city of Atlanta can draw out of the lake. They're also working on a water control audit for how much water must be dispersed out of dams on the Chattahoochee River.

How does that affect south Georgia? While the ruling doesn't directly impact south Georgia which pulls its water from underground aquifers, not surface water like the northern part of the state, water experts say it does have a round about effect on the Flint River basin.

An appeals court's reversal of a federal judge's 2009 order allows Atlanta to continue pulling water from Lake Lanier, although how much has yet to be determined. You may say, so what? That doesn't affect south Georgia aquifers, but what happens along the Chattahoochee River could have an impact on the Flint River.

"The fact that those two rivers run together doesn't mean the folks on the Flint can just say, yeah, that's not any of our problem. The steam flow along the Flint River does impact the amount of water in Lake Seminole and ultimately how much water flows into Florida," said Mark Masters of the Flint River Water Planning & Policy Center.

The stream flow along the Flint River does impact the amount of water in Lake Seminole and ultimately how much water flows into Florida.  Paul DeLoach of Flint Riverkeeper told us as of June first, low flow in the Flint barely met the minimum of 5,000 cubic feet per second that must flow into Florida. The Army Corps of engineers will be watching the Flint River levels closely.

"They're governed by some minimum flows that need to go into the state of Florida, so what they assume about the Flint is going to govern releases from those dams," Masters said.

So it will be a wait and see to learn what guidelines the Army Corps of Engineer will come up with and how that might impact our Flint River basin or irrigation for south Georgia farmers.

"It remains to be seen how the Corps is going to respond, the three judge panel gave them one year to come up with a proposed allocation for Metro Atlanta's water supply," Masters said.

What Paul DeLoach worries is that efforts the state should be taking toward conservation, including new low flush toilets and sinks in new construction and other efforts won't get the attention they deserve, since the ruling allows Atlanta to pull the water they need.

You may remember Governor Sonny Perdue held a water meeting here in 2009 to get south Georgia involved in the water discussion. Water officials say it is something residents here in south Georgia should be interested in. 

The Army Corps of Engineers will have until the summer of 2012 to develop those guidelines for the reservoirs along the Chattahoochee. They will include looking at levels coming in and out of West Point Lake and Lake George.