No Water Grabs!

Georgia is home to more than 70,000 miles of rivers and streams, but with a population of 9.8 million people these abundant water resources are being strained, especially in Metro Atlanta where more than 4 million of Georgia’s citizens reside. Unfortunately, Georgia’s largest metropolitan area sits in North Georgia near the state’s mountains where several of Georgia’s rivers begin, and where water is less abundant.

For example, each day on average, about 1.6 billion gallons of water flows by the City of Atlanta in the Chattahoochee River—the area’s primary drinking water source. By contrast, about 4.5 billion gallons flow by the City of Augusta in the Savannah, more than 3 billion gallons flow by Columbus in the Chattahoochee and some 4.4 billion gallons flow by Rome in the Coosa.

Because Georgia’s residents are not where Georgia’s water is, some special interests want to pipe or transfer the abundant water resources of Georgia’s smaller cities to Metro Atlanta to support that region’s continued economic growth. This process is usually referred to as “interbasin transfer” because water is moved from one river basin to another and not returned.

Interbasin transfers create conflicts between communities because water removed from a river and not returned is no longer available to sustain the economies of downstream communities or protect the health of the river and the wildlife that depend upon it.

Interbasin transfers currently take place in many parts of the state but most notably on the Chattahoochee and Coosa rivers. In 2008, the Chattahoochee lost 46.7 million gallons each day (MGD) while the Flint lost 11.7 MGD and the Coosa lost 9.7 MGD.

However, recent proposals for meeting Metro Atlanta’s water demands include the transfer of up to 150 MGD from the Savannah River system, 200 MGD from the Tennessee River system and even 200 MGD from South Georgia wells.

Such massive transfers could significantly impact the economic future of Georgia’s smaller communities and threaten our state’s natural resources.

Georgia needs to regulate interbasin transfers to protect our rivers and the future of all Georgia communities.

The state’s current laws regulating interbasin transfers are weak and should be strengthened.

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