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Judicial official rules for Georgia in Florida water consumption dispute

[JURIST] A judicial official on Tuesday ruled [report, PDF] in favor of Georgia in a water consumption dispute with Florida. The official urged [AJC report] the US Supreme Court [official website] to reject water consumption limits placed on Georgia, which the state argued would constitute billions of dollars in losses to Georgia's economy [AJC report]. Ralph Lancaster, a special master appointed by the Supreme Court, found [AP report] that Florida "failed to show that a consumption cap" was necessary. The dispute arises from water flowing from Lake Lanier downstream through Alabama and to Florida's Apalachicola Bay. Florida and Alabama have argued that Georgia draws more than its share from the water supply, posing a serious threat to the ecological system. Florida blames Georgia's use on the collapse of their oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. Florida's lawsuit aimed to cap Georgia's consumption by allowing the Atlanta area to consume the amounts of water at 1992 levels when Atlanta's metro area consisted of 3 million people instead of the current 5.4 million populations consumption. This ruling is not final as the Supreme Court can reject the recommendation or choose to take a different approach.

The dispute over the usage of the water between Georgia and Florida goes back almost 60 years. In 1956 the Army Corps of Engineers [official website] formed Lake Lanier after their construction of the Buford Damn thereby impounding the Chattahoochee River. They Corps released guidelines [text, PDF] on the usage of Lake Lanier's water in 1959. In 1997 Georgia, Alabama and Florida formed a commission to determine an allocation formula, but the commission dissolved in 2003 after agreement could not be reached. Lawsuits and conflicts began to arise between the states after a 2007 drought [Drought profile] hit the Southeast. The matter before the Supreme Court [SCOTUSblog materials] arose in 2013 when Florida requested an order restricting Georgia's water usage.

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