Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Thirst for Growth. (Dialogue)

Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Thirst for Growth. (Dialogue)

Article excerpt

Allocation of increasingly scarce water supplies throughout the United States, already a contentious issue, will certainly become even more so unless state and local governments act soon to forestall acrimonious disputes. Jefferson G. Edgens, in "Thirst for Growth" (FORUM, Spring 2001), focuses on the threat of water wars spurred by rapid population growth in the water-rich Southeast.

The tri-state dispute among Georgia, Alabama, and Florida hinges on the fact that Georgia holds the headwaters of two major river basins upon which Alabama and Florida depend for many uses, including maritime commerce. The Apalachicola Bay, into which the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint River Basin empties, also supports one of the richest oyster beds in the nation. In addition, all three states must anticipate and accommodate the water needs of their growing populations, including that of Georgia's burgeoning metropolitan Atlanta. Edgens' thought-provoking case study draws attention to the very real and seemingly insurmountable tensions among the three states. He also points to options worthy of exploration in these and other watersheds experiencing similar difficulties. The discussion adds considerable weight to the argument that watersheds are the appropriate unit of analysis for dealing with contemporary water management issues.

One concept growing out of the tri-state debate suggests linking watershed plans with comprehensive, local land-use plans. This regional, multi-jurisdictional approach, however, runs into serious questions regarding local sovereignty and the threat of top-down management. Complicating things even further are the legal issues associated with inter-basin transfer as well as the economic losses from droughts and floods.

Now still in its infancy, the Alabama, Coosa, and Talapoosa (ACT) River Basin Compact, authorized by Congress in 1997, is attempting to resolve this complex situation in one of the disputed river basins. …

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