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Water wars between southern states puts focus on farmers
Water Wars

ATLANTA – The ongoing court fight over water resources that involves Georgia, Florida and Alabama is now focused on south Georgia farmers.

Florida has for years been critical both of metro Atlanta's water use from the Chattahoochee River and farmers withdrawing water from the Flint River basin.

But in recent weeks, the case has come to focus on the Flint River in Georgia and the farmers in the region.

A central focus of the overall case: Florida accuses Georgia of using too much water, imperiling the Apalachicola Bay in the Panhandle and the oyster industry that relies on it. It wants a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that would limit how much water Georgia can use.

"Georgia will continue to use just more and more water if they don't have some sort of limit placed on them," retired Apalachicola Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire told WABE. He attended recent arguments in the case before a judge in New Mexico who was appointed to manage the case.

"I hope my friends in Georgia will forgive me for this because I know there are a lot of Georgians that care about the Apalachicola and understand what a valuable resource it is," he said. "I saw no sign that Georgia's awareness of the impacts to the Apalachicola River and Bay that it's caused has increased."

But Georgia maintains that the harm that would be caused to Georgia's farmers and economy would outweigh the benefits to Florida.

"I think that Georgia remains unconvinced that Florida has demonstrated that any benefit to Florida will not harm Georgia," said Chattahoochee Riverkeeper's water policy director Chris Mangianello, who also attended the court hearing.

Judge Paul Kelly, the court-appointed special master in the case, is expected to write a report on what he thinks should happen. The Supreme Court justices will then evaluate that.

A previous special master in the case sided with Georgia, but the Supreme Court sent the case back to get more information.
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