Emory Law News Center

Georgia and Alabama river groups officially weigh in on Florida v. Georgia water conflict before the US Supreme Court
By Emory University School of Law | Emory Law | October 26, 2016

On Friday, attorneys at the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory Law School, representing three river groups from Georgia and Alabama, filed an amicus curiae brief in Florida v. Georgia, an original action before the United States Supreme Court. The suit was filed by Florida in an effort to establish how much water each state (Florida and Georgia) may consume from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin, which spans across three states: Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. This case is the latest, most significant development in a three-decade battle over water use in this vital river system.

The three river groups – Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Flint Riverkeeper, and the Alabama Rivers Alliance – encompass a broad spectrum of ‘upstream’ interests which potentially will be affected by this historic case. 

The river groups’ amicus brief makes two main points:

  1. It is within the Court’s power under the law to address water allocation issues that are not directly measured in terms of dollars; and
  2. There are many opportunities in the ACF river system to simultaneously benefit Georgians, Alabamans, Floridians, and the wildlife in all three states as allocations decisions are made.

“This case is not just about Florida and Georgia; how the Court chooses to apportion the ACF Basin could have broad environmental impacts—either good or bad—for the entire Basin and all three of the states that rely on it. With our amicus brief, we hope to highlight how the Court can make sure that these important environmental issues are taken into consideration,” said Kate Lee, clinical fellow with the Turner Clinic. “This brief has been an amazing opportunity for the Turner Clinic and our students. Very rarely are law students able to work on cases before the US Supreme Court, or with as much state, regional, and national import as Florida v. Georgia.” 

The case will be argued by the two states before appointed Special Master Ralph I. Lancaster beginning on October 31 in Portland, Maine. Barring last minute compromise and agreement between the states as to allocation of the ACF Basin’s water, the trial is expected to take as many as six to eight weeks to conclude.