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US Supreme Court to hear 'water wars' case between Georgia, Florida in January
Lake Lanier

Georgia’s decades-old water dispute with Florida is going before U.S. Supreme Court justices on Jan. 8.

The “water wars” case centers on Lake Lanier and could have vast economic consequences for the state. The outcome of the case will determine whether Georgia draws too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which flows from Georgia into Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida argues that Georgia’s water consumption is harming its residents and economy in the Florida panhandle. The river basin supplies most of the water for metro Atlanta.

On Jan. 8, attorneys for Georgia and Florida will argue their cases before Supreme Court justices in what could be the last round of the 27-year-old water wars fight.

The two sides will be arguing the merits of a February report from the court’s special master, Maine attorney Ralph Lancaster.

In February, Lancaster sided with Georgia in what was a major victory in the case for the state. Lancaster determined that Florida had not proved additional water-use restrictions in Georgia would materially benefit Florida residents.

The case is important not just to Georgia, but potentially the entire country “because the subject matter is water and who is entitled to use it,” said Clyde Morris, the attorney for the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association who was involved with the case for almost a decade, “and whether or not Florida can make a case that Georgia has unreasonably used the water that originates in the state of Georgia.”

So far, Florida hasn’t made that case, but it will get another chance to prove otherwise when it argues its disagreements with Lancaster’s report on Jan. 8.