Ana Nico writes*
Metropolitan Atlanta has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. Recent projections suggest an increase equivalent to the current population of Denver of 2.9 million residents by 2050. Population growth and associated high demands for water are revealing increasing insecurities for water supply as the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority projects that within the next fifteen years, demand could increase from 201.5 to 311.6 million gallons per day in Fulton county.
Meanwhile, the warm climate and rising temperatures have made the city particularly vulnerable to droughts. Several initiatives have been launched to remedy the present shortcomings in the water management system and to ensure a steady supply to the city. Initiatives range from harvesting rainwater to the construction of tunnels to transport water up to a new reservoir. These initiatives, launched by the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management, a public utility service and regulator for the city, have been few and far between.
The city of Atlanta relies on the Chattahoochee River for supply. The water is sourced through two reservoirs: Lake Lanier and Allatoona Lake. This water produces 70% of the supply for drinking, hydropower, industry, and agriculture despite being one of the smallest watersheds in the country. The issue which arises today is that high population growth increases the demand for water, while increasing droughts threaten supply. Further complicating the supply of water, the Chattahoochee River Basin provides water downstream to Georgia’s neighboring states of Florida and Alabama. If water usage continues to increase in Atlanta, an ongoing tri-state dispute on water would simply be amplified.
Parallel to emerging challenges, a case is ongoing before the Supreme court of Justice between the State of Florida and Georgia over water use. This battle, which has sprawled over two decades, has led Florida to seek legal means for a cap on Georgia’s extraction of water from the Chattahoochee River. This is the second time that the case appears before the Supreme Court where the state of Georgia’s leading argument is that metropolitan Atlanta is dependent on the current extraction levels. The case, starting on the 22nd of February, is likely to pose additional barriers to the provision of water to the city.
* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂