Water Wars

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Hunter Harris; James Grabowsky; Phillip Zhao
EC 480 Group Project
Dr. Holt
11/27/2012
Water Scarcity: A Global Issue
For many of us, water is just a free beverage to save a few bucks at a restaurant. As all economists know, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as free water. Water is something we take for granted far too often without taking in the real costs of what it takes to get the water. This water scarcity issue is present right in our back yard, as Alabama fights with Georgia and Florida to get as much as the valuable resource as they can. Lake Lanier near Atlanta, GA, is the pivotal issue between the states as they decide how much of the water from the lake should be allocated to each state. Further west, a water dispute between the US and Mexico exists as to how the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers should be used by each country. This water scarcity issue is perhaps best shown by the dispute between India, China, and Pakistan over water from the Brahmaputra River. In a region with such an enormous part of our world population, determining an efficient allocation of water to each area is extremely critical. This project will seek to explain the history and background of these issues, examine current actions regarding the issues, and look to the future impacts of these issues. Tri-State Water Wars: Alabama, Georgia, and Florida

Water wars are something many Alabamians are familiar with. Alabama, Georgia, and Florida are all still fighting over what is to be done with the valuable water resources Lake Lanier provides. The lake, which sits close to Atlanta, was built by the Army Corps of Engineers to help with flood control and hydroelectric power. Alabama and Florida have challenged the use of the lake because using the water mainly for Georgia interests restricts their water availability. Alabama’s river system is hurt by Lake Lanier’s water being used up before hitting Alabama’s river system, and Florida shares similar concerns in addition to concerns about damage to its ecosystem. There have been multiple attempts at legislation, court cases, and compacts to fix the issue, but each has still left the states unsatisfied with the outcomes. Going forward, the issue may require a decision by the highest court that will be a final decision, as the states have been unable to come to a conclusion as to how Lake Lanier’s resources should be used for their state and the other states involved. The tri-state water dispute first became an issue when Alabama filed suit against Georgia in 1990 citing that Georgia had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). According to the NEPA, legislation that involves the environment of the parties which may be affected by the legislation must be given strong consideration to ensure that the environment of the parties involved is protected1. Alabama’s claim, which was later joined by Florida, stated that using the lake for Atlanta’s personal use benefit was harmful to waterways downstream in Alabama and Florida. After years of disputes between the states over Lake Lanier, it seemed the issue had begun to come to a close in 2009 when District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that Atlanta could no longer keep using Lake Lanier as an endless water supply for the city of Atlanta. District Judge Magnuson stated in his ruling that “Too often, state, local, and even national government actors do not consider the long-term consequences of their decisions.” 2 Magnuson’s view on Lake Lanier’s purpose was that it needed to stay available for states which may rely on the Lake for its environment. Even more important, Magnuson was trying to send a message to Georgia that use of such a scarce resource that goes unaccounted for can be detrimental to the environment in the long run. This issue of state and local governments not ensuring that their decisions are best for the overall good in the long run may create an even bigger issue for Lake Lanier down the road....
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