Water usage fight heads to Supreme Court … again

Two states are fighting over water usage. In this case, Florida has asked the Supreme Court to limit Georgia’s water use. Florida claims Georgia is using more than its share of water from a source that starts in a reservoir north of Atlanta. Georgia uses the water to produce hydropower. In years of drought, complications with water use are an issue as the water should continue to flow South through Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, it is diverted for use in the hydropower process noted above.

A drought in 2006 though 2008 led Florida to fight for Georgia to limit its water usage for hydropower. Ultimately, the dispute culminated in a trip to the Supreme Court in 2013.

Florida lost that dispute, but it is trying again.

What are the arguments in this case?

Georgia states it has addressed the issue and made changes to reduce water usage. The state’s efforts include the use of low water toilet systems and changes to agricultural practices. These changes include a moratorium on new wells and requirements for more efficient irrigation methods. Methods such as drip water systems and soil sensors.

Florida counters these efforts are not enough. Estuaries in the area are struggling, causing shrimp and oyster markets in Florida to suffer serious financial setbacks. To address this issue, Florida has asked the court to ensure a minimum flow of 1,000 cubic feet per second of fresh water during drought years.

At this time, a report to the court by the new special master appears to provide Georgia with an advantage. The report finds Georgia’s increase in water usage was “not unreasonable or inequitable” and questions the degree of benefit Florida would experience from the proposed change.

The Supreme Court has yet to discuss how it will proceed on this issue. We will provide updates as they become available.

How does this impact Connecticut development projects?

The case provides an example of the many hurdles developers can face when putting together projects. Developers with projects on shorelines or that impact water flowage can face serious delays and potential litigation. Legal counsel can help mitigate these potential issues as well as provide counsel in the event of a dispute.