My husband and I are vacationing in Florida, and as you can see from the photo taken at our Daytona Beach hotel, there appears to be plenty of water around us. The ocean, the pool, the clouds in the sky. Florida, in fact, is a place most often known for too much water. Hurricanes can devastate both the Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast. Rising sea levels have put parts of Miami Beach under water every time there is a high tide.
Imagine my surprise, then, to encounter a story from NPR about a three-decade-long water dispute between Florida and Georgia, which is about to head to the Supreme Court. It seems that in the Florida panhandle, rivers that originate in Georgia but enter the Gulf of Mexico in Florida are being used up by Georgians. Florida farmers who draw water from these rivers are having trouble getting enough water to irrigate. Coastal ecosystems at the Gulf that depend on the rivers are being affected, leading to the loss of economically important shellfish. Jobs, and fragile ecosystems, are being lost in Florida.
Georgia, meanwhile, has taken many steps to reduce water use along the rivers. Metro Atlanta is using 10% less water than it did 20 years ago, despite significant population growth. The lawsuit, however, says that Georgia has not done enough. When droughts arise, as they have in recent years, Florida’s communities are at risk. How will the Supreme Court balance the needs of small farmers and fishermen in Florida against the burgeoning population around Atlanta, Georgia?