Water War: Alabama Officials Fire Back - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Water War: Alabama Officials Fire Back

Rep. Greg Canfield Rep. Greg Canfield

It's been dubbed the water war -- a decades-old debate that's become even more heated with the on-going drought.

Tuesday, Alabama officials fired back at their Georgia counterparts, who are trying to reduce the amount of water flowing into our state. They claim Alabama's water supply is at risk.

By now, you've seen the results of the drought. Lake levels in Georgia and Alabama are dangerously low.

The Southeast Water Alliance reemphasized the severity of the problem during a news conference at the state house. The state and local officials in attendance also sent a message to Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue.

"No single state should be allowed the selfish action of restricting the flow of water into its neighboring states," said State Representative Greg Canfield of Birmingham.

Governor Purdue has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the amount of water released from Georgia's resevoirs because he says Atlanta's drinking water supply is in jeopardy.

Purdue also blames Alabama for not doing enough to conserve. But Alabama officials say it's Georgia that's using more than its fair share.

"I think he [Purdue] was playing to his Georgia audience," said Southeast Water Alliance Director Jerry Sailors. 

Sailors says Georgia did not impose mandatory water restrictions until September of this year. He says many Alabama cities did so three months earlier.

Birmingham, for example, is saving 1 billion gallons of water every month. However, Birmingham does not receive water from Georgia and not all cities who do can make the same claim.

Meanwhile, the growing city of Atlanta has actually watched as it water usage has increased over recent years. Alabama officials say Atlantans use more water now than their contract with the Corps of Engineers allows.

"This capricious and self-serving act [by Governor Purdue] is a cover for the failure of Georgia's government to impose adequate preventive measures to conserve water," said Rep. Canfield.

So what's the answer? Simply put, the south needs more water. Georgia officials are already floating the idea of building more dams to create more reservoirs. But that's a long term solution.

In the meantime, the governors of both states will meet with federal officials in Washington, D.C. to try and come up with a compromise. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

Reporter: Mark Bullock

Water Facts and Myths
from the Southeast Water Alliance

Myth: Over 3 million people in Atlanta will be without water in 90 days.
Fact: The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that water reserves for Atlanta are adequate to meet demand until the spring of 2008.

Myth: Atlanta is running out of water because the corps is releasing too much water from lakes in north Georgia.
Fact: Poor planning and unsustainable development have been cited as possible reasons for Atlanta's lack of water resources.

Myth: Georgia alone is taking drastic measures to reduce water usage.
Fact: Alabama towns and cities began taking proactive measures in advance of falling reserve levels. Others have instituted responsible water management programs.

Myth: Georgia seeks an emergency declaration to alleviate the affect of the drought on the state.
Fact: An emergency declaration would not only restrict water release from Lake Lanier, it would grant Georgia control over the federal reservoir by giving the state sole power to manage the region's waterways and water sources not just now but in perpetuity.

Myth: People in Atlanta are suffering at the expense of endangered mussels and sturgeon in Florida.
Fact: Currently, the water released from Lake Lanier is not only supporting the mussels and fish protected under The Endangered Species Act, but it is also helping individuals, communities and economies in downstream Georgia, Alabama and Florida survive the drought.

Reporter: Mark Bullock

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