Water Wars, Water Rights, & Use Allocation

Alabama and Florida have been involved with litigation against Georgia since 1990 over the use of interstate waterways. Atlanta has seen a tremendous amount of growth in recent decades. Atlanta is currently taking 65 million gallons a day (MGD) from the Etowah, with 23 MGD never being returned (inter-basin transfer). Transfers are expected to rise to 150 MGD in the next 30 years. These excessive transfers are harming the Coosa’s ability to assimilate pollution as well as provide sufficient water for habitat, drinking and recreation downstream. We are especially concerned about recreation-dependent economies on the lakes of the Coosa.

There are also local water use allocation issues in many areas of the Coosa Valley, exacerbated anytime there is drought. Because of the lack of significant water use allocation legislation in the Alabama, those withdrawing water from a creek may suck the creek dry without facing any action from state agencies. Coosa Riverkeeper has seen this first hand on some creeks during the 2011 drought season.

The majority of the riparian rights on the Coosa River belong to the Alabama Power Company, meaning they ultimately control water usage there. This reality creates many challenges to the state managing its water resources. The University of Virginia Environmental Law Journal published an article by our Staff Riverkeeper Frank Chitwood on this subject titled “Who Owns Alabama’s Coosa River?” which can be read here.

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