Video: South wages water war

updated 10/26/2007 3:51:03 PM ET 2007-10-26T19:51:03

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne met with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on Friday with the aim of keeping a tri-state fight over waning water supplies amid a severe drought from spilling into court.

Neither the governor nor Kempthorne would say much about the meeting until Kempthorne gets together in the afternoon with Alabama Gov. Bob Riley.

“Out of respect for the way these negotiations are going, we’re not going to be very specific,” Perdue said. “Things are in the works.”

Kempthorne said his meeting with Perdue had “the right atmosphere and the right tone.” He stressed that the states need to reach an agreement and keep the federal courts out of it.

Alabama, Georgia and Florida are mired in a decades-long water fight over federal reservoirs, and an “exceptional” drought — the worst category, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center — covering almost a third of the Southeast has intensified the jockeying. Government forecasters reported the drought could soon get worse.

Caught in the middle is the Army Corps of Engineers, which says it is complying with federal guidelines by sending millions of gallons of water from Georgia downstream to Florida and Alabama to supply power plants and protect federally threatened mussel species.

Army Corps of Engineers sued
Georgia lawmakers announced plans Thursday for a network of state reservoirs. Perdue also has ordered state agencies and public utilities to reduce usage, and authorities have banned outdoor watering in most of the state.

Georgia also sued the Corps last week, demanding it send less water downstream. That brought objections from the governors of Alabama and Florida.

“Georgians are willing to do their share in understanding and sharing as good neighbors, but we respectfully ask the same of our neighbors,” Perdue said at a news conference following the Friday morning meeting.

Riley and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist have warned that Georgia’s consumption, especially by the burgeoning Atlanta area, with its population of 5 million, threatens their downstream states.

Perdue, Riley and Crist have agreed to meet with federal officials in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 1 to work on a solution.

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