U.S. Supreme Court affirms metro Atlanta can use Lake Lanier for drinking water

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will not grant Alabama and Florida’s request for review of the decades-long legal dispute with Georgia over the intended use of water from Lake Lanier. That means metro Atlanta can use it to quench the thirst of its residents and businesses.

For Georgia, that’s bigger than the court’s decision upholding portions of HB 87.

The word from Attorney General Sam Olens:

“I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied certiorari, and the excellent decision by the Eleventh Circuit is the law – making clear that Lake Lanier can indeed be used for water supply for Georgia. It is my hope that we can finally put this decades-long legal dispute to rest and work together with our sister states — in meeting rooms, not courtrooms — to develop a fair and equitable water sharing plan and promote a strong and vibrant Southeastern region.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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26 comments Add your comment

Taipei Personality

June 25th, 2012
10:43 am

Excellent! Now can we handle these negotiations like adults?

Bob Loblaw

June 25th, 2012
10:57 am

Great day for Georgia. The feds dammed up our rivers and flooded our wetlands and then AL & FL said we couldn’t drink our water? C’mon, man! Go Sam!


June 25th, 2012
10:59 am

Glad to see some common sense from the high court for a change. Lanier was developed to provide a resource for the future growth of metro Atlanta. Ala and Fla played hard ball and lost. Now, lets all work together.


June 25th, 2012
11:00 am

Keep drinking it dry Atlanta


June 25th, 2012
11:04 am

Great, can we use some of the water to wash and sanitize the sate capital. Wash away the stupidly, greed and corruption. Hope there is enough water in the lake.

Marlboro Man

June 25th, 2012
11:04 am

What does a dog do when he catches the car he was chasing ?


June 25th, 2012
11:13 am

Taipei, nope. Now Georgia will play hardball.

A True Patriot

June 25th, 2012
11:17 am

What would they have done if Al & Fl had won? Cut us off? Naw, I don’t think so…….this was a useless exercise and a total waste of money and resources. C’mon, people, use a little common sense on issues such as this.


June 25th, 2012
11:23 am

I heard that Florida and Alabama filed an action of certiorari with the Court of Heaven –

God: Georgia, thou hast not done unto thy neighbor as thou would like done unto thee. I pronounce one year of no rainfall.

{…God enters his Chambers and calls Georgia…}

God: Hey guys, so how’d I look? Did it sound and seem official? Great. Well, enjoy that lake Lanier thingy and thanks for the offering… ;-)


June 25th, 2012
11:26 am

This has never been about water. It has always been about other states’ desires to advance their economies by handicapping Atlanta’s. The idea that other states have an entitlement to water which falls from the sky or springs from the ground in Georgia is preposterous. There is no input of water to the Chattahoochee from outside Georgia from its headwaters in Habersham County all the way to West Point. From West Point south, there are minor inputs from Alabama. If Alabama wants to dam the North Fork of the Cowikee Creek, fine. It wouldn’t have any noticeable effect on the level at Apalachicola Bay.
As for Greater Atlanta’s impact on the lower Chattahoochee, one might refer to Jay Bookman’s interview (a few years back) with a hydrologist at Auburn University – which, by the way, is in the lower Chattahoochee valley – who said that the lower river would be worse off if there were no Atlanta. The impervious surfaces in the metro are shed rainwater into the river very rapidly. Without this mechanism, the pre-existing primeval forest would pump water into the crowns of trees, from which it would be evaporated and carried, by the prevailing westerly wind, toward South Carolina, completely outside the Chattahoochee watershed. The river levels downstream would be lower. Not to mention that (this is not part of the Bookman column) the runoff from the urban area is almost certainly cleaner than the runoff from farms. Think of the phosphates from fertilizers, to say nothing of animal waste, that gets into the system from farms.
We should be willing to negotiate with Alabama and Florida, but the idea that they are entitled to water from the Chattahoochee should not be part of the discussion. We should be grateful to the Court for helping our neighboring states to grasp the obvious at last.


June 25th, 2012
11:29 am

Originally the lake was NOT built as a water supply for Atlanta, and Georgia should have been building resevoirs for the last 50 years to take care of the population growth in north Georgia.
It is important from a conservation aspect that the three states work out a plan to share water to provide for the eco system as was originally intended. Stop making this political and think as a region.

Taipei Personality

June 25th, 2012
11:44 am

Venturer – 1) almost any reservoir built in North Georgia will pull from the Chattahoochee or Etowah/Coosa river basin, and thus affect amount of water going out of state anyway – and 2) should not Alabama and Florida have also had the amazing insight to know that Atlanta would grow so fast and also build their own reservoirs, that we would have absolutely no claim to at all.


June 25th, 2012
11:44 am

We still need to do a much better job of water conservation. We still need to develop other reservoirs, which, by the way, Alabama and Florida have opposed as well. It is a relief that the federal courts will not turn off our spigots right away, but we should not take that as license to be profligate.

Taipei Personality

June 25th, 2012
11:50 am

Georgia should only consider stricter conservation if the measures will be matched by the other states, at least the parts within the watershed. Made me so mad in last drought to see no restrictions at all there, when I was not able to even wash my car! The other players need to make some concessions to if they want to be taken seriously.


June 25th, 2012
11:54 am

Time for FL and AL to finally get to the business of developing their OWN water plan/system. How much could they have done had they not spent the $$ resources on this lengthy lawsuit?

209 more days

June 25th, 2012
12:26 pm

Getalife, the ruling is for water for Georgia, not just Atlanta

Taipei Personality

June 25th, 2012
12:36 pm

209…who are you responding to? Also, this was not a ruling, it was a denied petition. Alabama and Florida wanted to appeal the ruling by 11th Dist Court of Appeals, which last summer overturned a ruling that would have blocked Atlanta metro counties from using Lanier water by next month. Southern Georgia counties actually sided with Alabama and Florida in some of the suits, though not the one appealing to the Supremes from what I could tell.


June 25th, 2012
1:09 pm

Now can we do ourselves a favor and outlaw ‘homeowners associations’ from requiring water hog vegetation?
Can we raise the money to fix water system leaks?
Will we join the rest of the civilized world in realizing that water is NECESSARY and PRECIOUS and treat it that way?
Is it possible to require electric utilities to reduce the amount of water they waste through evaporation?
Will another year come and go in the General Assembly without reining in the influence of the turf grass growers?
Has there ever been a better opportunity to RAISE THE LEVEL of Lake Lanier to 1073 ft. above sea level which would completely eliminate the need for any wasted money and unnecessary fights over reservoirs?

We dodged a bullet with the SC decision.
It would be a shame not to learn from it and modify our laws and practices so the problem is solved instead of ignored.


June 25th, 2012
1:11 pm

Finally, we have closure on what the plain language of a 1946 statute says. And the Courts (the ones with brains) said that it says what we all know it says. That Lake Lanier is a multi-purpose project for power generation, flood control, navigation, AND WATER SUPPLY FOR ATLANTA. Well, duh! Alabama, Florida, and the Corps wasting over 20 of our years and millions of our dollars trying to say otherwise is just inexcusable.


June 25th, 2012
1:13 pm

Who owns Lake Lanier and it’s water? The State? The County? Or the Property Owners?


June 25th, 2012
1:16 pm

The United States owns the project.


June 25th, 2012
1:24 pm

@ rooster

brilliant post. The water war was always about economic prosperity…not water. Take the Alabama governor’s comment when Magnuson made his ruling a few years ago that would deny Atlanta using its own water. He said, “This will be an economic boon for our state.” He didn’t mention environmental impacts or drinking water.

It is very nice to see the Supreme Court exercise common sense and fairness. I will never understand why our neighbors thought it was perfectly okay to deny us use of water that falls on our land and comes from our springs.

Next, we need to combat the myth that the Atlanta area consumes too much water. Heck, most of us are on sewer so the water we use is cleaned and returned to the Hooch.


June 25th, 2012
1:47 pm

@Venturer, ok, why in the last 50 yrs did Fla and Ala not plan and develop their own water supply? And yes, it WAS developed for future use by Georgians…You lost, deal with it.

The Snark

June 25th, 2012
1:53 pm

I guess this means we can now address the problem of growth and limited water resources the usual Georgia way:

Do nothing!

Middle of the Road

June 25th, 2012
3:19 pm

“I guess this means we can now address the problem of growth and limited water resources the usual Georgia way:”

What “limited water resources”. We are not Southern Califiornia; we have plenty of water here. The Chattahoochee is not dry below Atlanta. The other states (Alabama and Florida) just wanted THEIR priorities to come before ours. Even in the worst drought we had, we still had water in Lanier; they were just having to think about extending the intake line.

[...] except for a few environmental wackos. What water we do have is not well managed. A comment at the fishwrapper says it better than this slack blogger. “Now can we do ourselves a favor and outlaw [...]