Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on Tuesday signed a bill that supporters say could help resolve the state's water wars with Alabama and Florida. The three states have been fighting in federal court since 1990 over water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system.
U. S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson on July 17, 2009 ruled that water use from the Chattahoochee River by cities was not authorized by Congress when it established Lake Lanier, a huge federal reservoir north of Atlanta. He gave the states three years to reach a water allocation agreement or north Georgia cities would face severe restrictions on their use of water. The governors began negotiations in late 2009 but talks have failed to produce an agreement.
SB 370, the Water Stewardship Act of 2010, states that the Georgia General Assembly "recognizes the imminent need to create a culture of water conservation" in the state. The bill requires efficient water fixtures in all new residential and commercial construction and the installation of efficient cooling towers in new industrial construction. For apartments and condominiums, separate water metering will be required to provide incentives for water conservation.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole said the legislation is a "good starting point." In a statement, he said, "We would like to come to a solution before the end of the year. We are glad to see Georgia moving forward with conservation."
The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper environmental group says the state needs to go further in conserving water. The group says the new law will save about 23 million gallons of water per day, or 3.5 percent of present water use.
A representative of the Atlanta Regional Commission said the bill won't resolve differences with the other states but it will help. "I think there are substantive steps the Atlanta region has taken and Georgia has taken to deal proactively with its water issues," said Tom Weyandt, ARC's director of comprehensive planning.
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