A Perspective on Water Management Practices and Programs in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Drainage Basin from the Bottom Up

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Leitman, Steve F.
Howell, Christopher D.
Hatcher, Kathryn J.
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The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) watershed drains 19,600 square miles of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida into the Gulf of Mexico (Figure 1). About three-quarters of the drainage basin is in Georgia. The basin's water resources are used for a variety of purposes including: municipal, industrial and agricultural water supply; commercial navigation; hydropower; wastewater dilution; recreation; and commercial and recreational fishing. Between 1950 and 1980, the combination of the relatively undeveloped nature of much of the basin and what has proved to be a relatively wet climatic period left most water managers with the expectation that there always would be ample water for all demands in the basin. During this time, the major source of confrontation between interstate water interests in the basin was the extent to which the Apalachicola River should be structurally modified to provide the 9 x 100 foot federal navigation channel on a year-round basis. Increased demands for water in the basin, coupled with several droughts during the 19808, however, have changed this perspective. The issue of how the ACF basin's water resources should be managed has been brought to the forefront with the filing of a lawsuit by the State of Alabama in 1990 and a subsequent motion to intervene by Florida. The lawsuit concerned a proposal to reallocate a portion of Lake Lanier's conservation storage pool from hydropower to municipal supply for Metropolitan Atlanta. Florida's intervention was more related to its concern over the management of water throughout the basin than to the impacts of the Lake Lanier reallocation in and of itself. The lawsuit and associated efforts to negotiate its resolution may ultimately have a strong influence on how the water resources of this and other multi-state watersheds within the southeast will be managed over the next several decades. It is important for water managers to understand both the need to manage watersheds from a system-wide context, and thus the implications of their water management decisions on adjacent states.
Sponsored by U.S. Geological Survey, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Georgia Institute of Technology.
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