It’s worth noting that the current conversation about Atlanta’s water future has not arisen because of questions about sustainability of water supplies for the various users in Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. It’s instead the result of a legal issue: Atlanta’s primary source of supply, Lake Lanier, was never authorized by Congress to serve as a water supply dam.
There may be legitimate questions about adequacy of supply down there, but that’s not what this fight is about. Still, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, it’s a hell of a fight, the highest stakes water war in the country right now. If no deal can be worked out, Atlanta loses its source of water in 2012:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to tighten the spigot at the Atlanta region’s main source of drinking water based on a federal judge’s stinging ruling in the tri-state water dispute.
Corps officials say they will rewrite their operating manuals for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin to prohibit certain water withdrawals and releases from Lake Lanier after July 2012. Only Buford and Gainesville would be allowed to continue pulling drinking water from the lake under the Corps’ plans.
(Image of Lake Lanier in happier days, courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
Atlanta’s dependence on water impounded by Lake Lanier came to light when the Lake levels dropped a few years back. Drought was a primary cause. The Corps of Engineers were criticized due to an operational error that made matters worse.
It was an interesting story. Instrumentation that measured the lake level at the Dam was replaced and setup incorrectly by Corps technicians. Due to the nature of the error, lake elevations dropped much more than the instruments indicated.
The outcome was pretty severe for the area Corps commander (Gen Walsh) as he had to explain to a Senate committee what went wrong.
I believe that the USGS does the measuring today.