Georgia-Florida Water Dispute To Be Heard By US Supreme Court

21 Jan 2021 by The Water Diplomat

The long running dispute regarding a river system which runs along the Georgia-Florida state line is scheduled to be heard by the US Supreme Court in February.

Following three decades of feuds and lawsuits surrounding the shared distribution of water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river system, Florida went to the Supreme Court in 2013 requesting a cap on the amount of water Georgia could use.

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments to take place on 22 February 2021.

The river system is not only the source of metro Atlanta’s drinking water, which has a population of around 6 million people, but it is also a crucial water resource for agriculture, fisheries and power generation.

Florida’s case is that Georgia’s consumption rates are damaging the Apalachicola River in Franklin County and the oyster population in the Apalachicola Bay and therefore should be capped.

However, in 2019 Florida’s argument was dealt a devastating blow when Judge Paul Kelly, a Special Master appointed by the Supreme Court, provided an 81-page report detailing how Florida’s claims were unsubstantiated.

Special Master Kelly’s report revealed that drought conditions combined with Florida’s fishery management was responsible for the 2012 oyster collapse as opposed to Georgia’s water consumption rates.

With reference to the possibility of an apportionment, the Special Master claimed that: “the potential harms to Georgia would substantially outweigh the benefits to Florida”.

In response, Florida’s attorney stated in a brief filed last year that: “Georgia’s insatiable upstream consumption (of water) has decimated Apalachicola’s oyster fisheries.”

He added: “The harm to the Bay’s oyster fisheries is undeniable. Apalachicola is renowned across America for its oysters, which account for 90% of Florida’s oyster harvest and 10% of the nation’s.”

In the best-case scenario, both states will arrive at a transparent water-sharing agreement, which protects the population of both humans and wildlife across the basin and resolves the long-running water feud between the neighbouring states.