Georgia and Florida are set for Feb. 22 arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in another “water wars” showdown.
The issue at stake is water sharing between Georgia and Florida in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which includes Lake Lanier in the headwaters.
Florida is alleging “overconsumption” of water in the basin. The Apalachicola River spills into the Gulf of Mexico, where Florida claims it has suffered economic and ecological harm.
“Denying Florida relief not only would spell doom for Apalachicola, it would set the bar so high for an equitable apportionment that it would effectively invite states to raid water as it passes through their borders,” Florida lawyers said in a brief filed July 27 in the Supreme Court.
Florida’s plea to the court is in response to U.S. Circuit Judge Paul J. Kelly’s recommendation in December 2019 that justices not grant Florida’s request for an “equitable apportioning” of waters in the basin.
Georgia, meanwhile, wants the court to accept Kelly’s recommendation. Georgia said in a June court filing, “After more than six years of litigation, it is now clear that Florida’s case was built on rhetoric and not on facts.”
The state contends that while it accounts for more than 90% of the population, employment and “economic output” in the basin, the state’s total water consumption is 2.4% of “state line” flows in wet years and 6.1% in dry years, its lawyers say.
The battle with Florida is the latest chapter in water litigation also involving Alabama that dates to 1990. The last critical decision was in 2012, when the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision to deny requests by Alabama and Florida to review whether water supply is an authorized purpose of Lake Lanier.