Washington (AFP) – The US Supreme Court on Wednesday offered a glimmer of hope to Florida in its decades-long water dispute with its northern neighbor Georgia.
The justices found fault with a previous decision by a court-appointed lawyer, who had said that efforts to limit water consumption by Georgia would not make a significant difference to supply for Florida’s Apalachicola river estuary and the oyster farms that depend on it.
The court said the decision by the so-called Master, Richard Lancaster, had been “too strict,” and sent the case back to him for further consideration, offering Florida some hope in the protracted battle to secure adequate fresh water for one of North America’s richest oyster beds.
Florida’s Apalachicola river is formed from the confluence of two rivers, the Chattahoochee and the Flint, which flow out of Georgia, whose agriculture and the growing demands from Atlanta have decreased water levels in the rivers.
That has reduced supply to the rich oyster beds, triggering droughts and a rising level of salinity in their upper reaches, which experts say has decimated the population of oysters.
The dispute has been brewing since the 1990s, when Atlanta — home of Coca Cola, Delta Airlines and CNN — started to experience significant population growth. It is now one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, with a population topping five million.