Protecting Life Functions, Economic Interests, Property Rights and Aesthetic Preferences in Georgia's Waters

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Smith, J. Owens
Hatcher, Kathryn J.
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News accounts describe the current tensions among Georgia, Alabama and Florida in typical polemical terms as the "tri-state water war!" However, controversies among states that share interstate water courses or lakes can be settled through recourse to several long-accepted water dispute resolution alternatives. Existing statutes and common law principles form the basis for resolution of this controversy. Alabama, Georgia and Florida are presently engaged in a sometimes bitter contest over shared use of the water in the Chattahoochee and Coosa river systems. Alabama filed a suit in June, 1990 against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to halt a Corps plan to divert water from the Chattahoochee and Coosa Rivers for use in Atlanta and other Georgia cities, but the parties have agreed to attempt to negotiate a settlement that will accommodate the interests of three states whose interests are involved. There is reason to be optimistic that an accord can be fashioned. More than ever before we have developed various sorts of quantity and quality data on the river systems involved that can inform a decision by the negotiators or the court. Essentially, it is a question of equitable apportionment of both quality and quantity elements of the water resource. An important part of the law to consider in attempting to understand how disputes like this are to be resolved is the area identified as "interstate allocation." Here I will briefly review the three most important approaches to allocation of interstate streams and lakes among disputing states: (1) states may originate a suit between or among themselves in the U.S. Supreme Court; (2) they may enter an interstate compact for consideration by the Congress; and (3) Congress may exercise its constitutional authority to allocate directly the subject waters.
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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