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January 26, 2021

Georgia Signs Contract Securing Access to Lake Lanier Water

Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

An agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has formally granted Georgia use of Lake Lanier for drinking water, a major step toward securing a long-term water supply for a growing metro Atlanta.

“Metro Atlantans can celebrate a landmark victory for sustainable water supplies with this agreement between Georgia and the federal government,” said Katie Kirkpatrick, MAC President and CEO. “Given our region’s excellent record on water conservation through the years, I am confident that our communities will make wise use of this essential resource going forward.”

The new contract stems from a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled water supply as an authorized use of Lake Lanier, followed by a 2017 USACE rule change permitting the lake be used for drinking water. Under the contract, Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties and the cities of Buford, Gainesville and Cumming will be permitted to withdraw water for more than a million people while the lake exists.

Lake Lanier has served as a source of drinking water for decades, though without a formal agreement. This use, and broader Georgia use of water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, has resulted in federal litigation as part of the tri-state water wars involving Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Governor Brian Kemp and former Governor Nathan Deal, as well as former U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, played significant roles in supporting Georgia’s litigation efforts to secure water access.

The next notable occurrence in the ongoing water litigation will occur on February 22 when the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Florida v. Georgia case for a second time.

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