A new development in the long-gestating water fight between the two states
Florida and Georgia have long been mired in a water dispute, and this adversarial relationship reached a turning point on Jan. 8, 2018 when the Supreme Court heard Florida’s argument and appeared to side with the state’s complaint against Georgia.
The feud, dating back to 1990, stems from Florida’s accusation that its northern neighbor uses excessive amounts of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, leaving too little for use by Florida. The aforementioned Georgia rivers eventually flow into Florida’s Apalachicola River.
According to several justices, the low river flows resulting from Georgia’s water usage may have harmed the environment in Florida and disrupted fisheries that depend on freshwater inflow to sustain fishing, having suffered a substantial drop in oyster harvest near the Apalachicola Bay.
Florida representatives argued that if Georgia were to cut back on its water consumption, more water would inevitably flow into the state’s river, remedying any damage potentially done. However, Georgia representatives claimed that such a claim was not necessarily true due to the complex five-dam system operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to Justice Department lawyer Edwin Kneedler, the Corps utilizes water from Georgia’s rivers for various uses, such as hydropower, flood control, environmental and ecosystem health, and water storage.
A special master appointed by the justices initially suggested they side with Georgia in the dispute, but this changed following the states’ respective arguments.