Editorials: Up next for the water war — Though on the sidelines, Alabama needs to watch closely
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Oct 03, 2013 | 1911 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo: The Associated Press
Photo: The Associated Press
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Since Apalachicola Bay and its drought-ravaged oyster industry were declared a disaster area in August, the state of Florida has been expected to file suit against Georgia, which it blames for the “unmitigated consumption of water” that threatens the bay and the life it sustains.

As expected, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal responded that “the only ‘unmitigated consumption’ going on around here is Florida’s waste of our tax dollars on a frivolous lawsuit.”

Thus, the long-going water war is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is where disputes between states are decided.

This page has been over the issue so often that there is little reason to do more than point to the fact that Georgia has the water and Florida (supported at times by Alabama) contends Georgia is using more than it should.

Efforts by the states to work out the problem and agree on an allocation have been occasional and half-hearted. After earlier rulings, the state that feels the courts have given it an advantage is eager to negotiate. The other isn’t. When the advantage shifted, the strategies shifted as well. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is supposedly working on a water-sharing study, but it will be years before it is completed. Meanwhile, a group calling itself the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin Stakeholders is working to come up with “fact-based” solution; however, the predominance of Georgians in that organization gives its work a partisan tincture.

In truth, everyone is partisan, which is why the issues are so continuous and solutions so elusive. Atlanta has finally begun to control its consumption, but not to the point that Florida (and in some instances Alabama) feel it should. It is also true that, as Georgians are quick to point out, Atlanta’s per-capita water consumption is lower than all the counties in Florida except Key West, which has to import its water. That’s true, but it’s also irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Florida is asking that the Supreme Court cap Georgia’s water use to 1992 levels and that a special master be designated to come up with an equitable solution. Georgia, naturally, opposes both.

It seems, as many have long suspected, that the matter will only be settled when the high court settles it. It would be better if it were otherwise, but it isn’t.
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