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Lawmakers in Georgia are trying to steal our water

Staff Report • Feb 20, 2012 at 9:02 AM

State lawmakers in Georgia have tried unsuccessfully for a number of years to lay claim to water from the Tennessee River. Now it looks like they are at it again.

Last week, a subcommittee of the Georgia House of Representatives heard a bill to make it legal to capture water in Georgia that is flowing across the state’s border into the Tennessee River, collect it in abandoned rock quarries and transport it south through a pipe system to the Atlanta area.

As bad as recent droughts have been here, they have been much worse in Alabama and Georgia. They are beginning to get a bit thirsty down in Atlanta, where the city has had to take major steps to conserve water in the summer.

Dry conditions across the Southeast have made water supply and river management a key issue for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Drought-stricken cities like Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala., would love to have access to TVA’s water resources. Key to those resources is the Tennessee River, which empties as much water by volume into the Ohio as the much-longer Missouri does into the Mississippi.

If it was possible, Atlanta would stick a straw into Chattanooga and suck out as much water as it could. While that might sound far-fetched, for years now Georgia officials have been eyeing ways of drinking from the Tennessee River System.

A reliable water supply is a community’s lifeblood. It’s what fuels growth and development. Without it, communities literally dry up and become ghost towns.

Tennessee is reluctant to see its water resources siphoned off, and rightly so. Too many residents of this state lack a reliable and safe source of drinking water. Recent droughts have left many residential wells dry. Even more disturbing, public utilities that rely on spring-fed water sources have had to ask customers to conserve.

As we noted a few years back, it is these realities that led to the creation of the Watauga River Regional Water Authority. It’s been a difficult road for the WRRWA. The water authority came under fire in 2008 from some Carter County residents and community leaders who complained about the necessary surcharges that were attached to their water bills.

Residents in Atlanta and other parts of parched North Georgia would gladly pay those rates to drink from the Watauga River. That’s why Tennessee officials must do all they can to see that our precious water resources are not hijacked by our neighbors.

As the events of last week demonstrate, Georgia lawmakers aren’t about to give up on their efforts to siphon water from the Tennessee River.

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