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U.S. Supreme Court Sends Water Wars Case Back to Special Master

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Florida v. Georgiawater wars case. The Supreme Court Justices were deciding whether or not to accept an appointed special master’s recommendation to essentially dismiss Florida’s case seeking limits on Georgia’s water use primarily in Metro Atlanta along the Chattahoochee and on agricultural lands along the Flint.

Writing for the Court, Justice Stephen Breyer held that Florida’s case should not be dismissed and sent it back to the special master. Now, the special master must consider all of Florida’s claims and determine if there is a solution that will balance relief to Florida’s oyster fishery against any potential impacts to Georgia’s economic interests in Atlanta and its South Georgia farms.

You can read the opinion here.

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper believes that now is the time for the three states (Alabama included) to negotiate an interstate compact to equitably apportion the waters. Georgia and Florida should not spend more years and tens-of-millions of dollars more to continue this litigation. We look forward to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s increased engagement to address Corps operations from Lake Lanier to Woodruff Dam and the Apalachicola Bay.

We must cease endless rounds of litigation, and instead focus our resources on sharing our water resources equitably because communities will continue to grow and our clean water resources are limited.

This opinion recognized that there will always be a downstream community, farmer or industry that will need clean water for economic sustainability. The legal battles are not really about which state wins or loses. The debate is about sustaining critical water resources, community health, and economic growth in communities spanning three states.

Regardless of the outcome, Georgians have a responsibility to conserve water. If a robust culture of conservation does not take hold in Atlanta, the Flint River basin and across all economic sectors, we’ll be back in court again another day.