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December 13, 2019

Water Wars Update


Yesterday, Special Master Paul Kelly delivered a decisive opinion in favor of Georgia in the ongoing litigation between Florida and Georgia over equitable apportionment of water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) basin. 

As background, Florida filed suit against Georgia in 2013 and the litigation was assigned to Special Master Ralph Lancaster. At the heart of the case, Florida asserted that Metro Atlanta and southwest Georgia’s agricultural industry were using too much water to the detriment of Appalachicola Bay. Both states argued the case before Lancaster in November 2016 during a monthlong trial held in Portland, Maine. After hearing additional oral arguments from both parties in January 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Special Master in June 2018, in a 5-4 decision, citing five key questions that had not been answered sufficiently. In August 2018, the Court appointed a new Special Master, Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr., who conducted a hearing in Albuquerque, New Mexico on November 7, 2019 with oral arguments from both states. 

According to Kelly, “I do not recommend that the Supreme Court grant Florida’s request for a decree equitably apportioning the waters of the ACF Basin because the evidence has not shown harm to Florida caused by Georgia; the evidence has shown that Georgia’s water use is reasonable; and the evidence has not shown that the benefits of apportionment would substantially outweigh the potential harms.” 

We are proud that the Metro Atlanta Chamber has remained steadfast in our support of water conservation and planning efforts undertaken by our state, local governments, businesses and citizens. In addition, MAC provided support to the case as it moved through the lengthy U.S. Supreme Court process, including an Amicus brief supporting Georgia’s case. And Katie Kirkpatrick, MAC Chief Policy Officer, testified as an expert witness for Georgia in the trial regarding water policy research and recommendations by the Boston Consulting Group. 

The Supreme Court must still consider the Special Master’s report and recommendation. Meanwhile, we remain committed to conservation efforts and long-term planning for sustainable water supplies. 

Read the Special Master's report here.

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