You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Water wars verdict could cost Georgia billions

Georgia’s economy could take an $18 billion hit if Florida prevails in the upcoming “water wars” trial, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Yet Florida, which is suing Georgia for hogging too much Chattahoochee and Flint river water, appears to be aiming its legal guns at the farmers in Southwest Georgia who use copious amounts of river and groundwater to grow cotton, peanuts and other crops.

And, despite months of confidential meetings between the two states’ governors and their attorneys, the trial appears set to begin Oct. 31 — Halloween — in Portland, Me.

Florida sued Georgia two years ago claiming the upriver state disproportionately hordes water to the downstream detriment of oystermen, endangered mussels and the overall economy. Georgia’s two rivers meet at the Florida line to form the Apalachicola River.

Florida beseeched the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the case and to “equitably apportion” the rivers’ waters. The high court appointed a special master, Ralph Lancaster from Portland, to hear it. Once Lancaster rules, expected early next year, the Supreme Court will likely weigh in.

Florida wants to keep Georgia water withdrawals at 1992 levels when metro Atlanta was home to only half as many people as it is today. Georgia appears to have the upper legal hand. Florida must first prove that Georgia is to blame for its water woes, in particular the damage done by a low-flowing Apalachicola River to oysters and the oyster industry.

Georgia, in its pre-trial briefing filed Thursday, said Florida’s case is without merit serving only to “jeopardize” the state’s economy.

“Accepting Florida’s proposed remedies would thus inflict massive economic injury on Georgia’s farmers and Atlanta’s water supply, without providing any measurable benefit to Florida,” the filing reads. “

Water-using industries across Metro Atlanta — chicken processors, Lockheed Martin, landscapers, utilities — contribute $13.5 billion to the region’s economy, according to Georgia’s legal brief, and employ 50,000. Cotton, peanuts, corn and other crops throughout the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola regions carried an economic impact of $4 billion.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Georgia’s 6th District now has a bunch of new voters
Georgia’s 6th District now has a bunch of new voters

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District already boasts more than a half-million voters. But the latest group to join the voting rolls may prove to be the most important in the hotly contested June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. More may be coming, as local election officials continue to process...
New council promises results, seeks patience in helping rural Georgia
New council promises results, seeks patience in helping rural Georgia

Members of the newly minted state House Rural Development Council heard a litany of challenges facing the rural parts of Georgia on Monday, as local officials, economists and experts tallied the woes. Rural Georgia is aging rapidly. It is losing population and jobs, it lacks infrastructure and it often struggles to educate its youth. House leaders...
Georgia’s 6th District has added 5,500 voters, with more coming
Georgia’s 6th District has added 5,500 voters, with more coming

More than 5,500 voters have so far been added to the rolls in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District after a federal judge ordered local counties to reopen registration through this past Sunday. The total includes two types of voter: the newly registered, plus so-called “transfer” applications — already registered Georgia voters...
Rural council promises results, asks for patience
Rural council promises results, asks for patience

House Speaker David Ralston on Monday said rural Georgia can’t afford to wait for the next election to find progress and solutions. “Rural Georgia cannot wait on political seasons to come and go because they will always come and go,” the Blue Ridge Republican told the first meeting of the House Rural Development Council. “I...
Problems of rural Georgia easy to find, difficult to fix
Problems of rural Georgia easy to find, difficult to fix

The summer before he graduated high school in 1963, Hasan Hanks helped build what he was certain was the future of his little town on Georgia’s southwestern edge. The Walter F. George Lock and Dam was near completion and would soon form a 45,000-acre lake, with 650 miles of prime shoreline property, and generate enough electricity to power 58...
More Stories