WSFA 12 News Exclusive: Governor Riley Discusses Water Wars

Earlier this month in Washington, the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida came to terms to end a seventeen-year-old stalemate that has come to be known as 'the water wars'.

In an exclusive one-on-one interview, Governor Bob Riley tells WSFA 12 News the agreement means Georgia gets to keep more water in Lake Lanier to feed the thirsty metro Atlanta area, but what's in it for Alabama?

The governor says that same flexibility in our state could solve some serious water problems.

Riley says the agreement is the result of a real crisis and an intervention by the White House.

He also says, in a week, the Bush administration did what would have taken bureaucrats years to accomplish.

The key, Riley says, is flexibility.

"We've always dealt with the hypothetical: 'What if a drought of this magnitude happened?'"

The governor says it's no longer a theory but a fact Alabamians are living with everyday.

He believes the agreement is a golden opportunity to solve the water management issues that have plagued areas like Lake Martin and have threatened the source of drinking water for places like Alex city.

Riley believes Alabama would be much better off if it had the same flexibility that Georgia gets with Lake Lanier

When it comes to regulating water at the state level, however, Alabama has no single water policy.

The governor says changing that should come in small steps, first tailoring regulations to the needs of specific areas.

"Rather than setting up a statewide policy, we ought to look at basins," he explains, "work out the problems, see if we can reach some kind of conclusion on those and then begin to do one every two to three years until we can get a state policy."

The governor says that topic will come up when the legislature convenes in February.

On a related note, the Alabama Water Resources Commission meets Wednesday morning, and it's a good bet the water crisis will be high on the agenda.

WSFA 12 News will be at that meeting.