Negotiating Water Management in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Basin - Florida Climate Institute

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Collaborators: S. Leitman, B. Blanchard, D. Tankersley

Institutions: University of Florida, Florida State University

Status: Funded

Filed Under: Water

Abstract: The fundamental dilemma we explore is the process through which states may equitably and sustainably share the water resources of a transboundary river basin. This case focuses on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) basin that includes portions of three states: Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. For three decades, these states have been engaged in what the media has dubbed the "Tristate Water Wars." The key argument is over the equitable allocation of water in the basin among different states and user groups. Conflict is exacerbated during periods of drought. The federal government has not legislatively defined standards for interstate sharing of water in the same manner as it has with water quality through the Clean Water Act. There is no agreement or authority that guides basin-wide water management and the equitable division of water among all parties with an interest. The states have four options to achieve this goal: (1) form an interstate compact (this was attempted in 1999-2004), (2) have Congress pass legislation, (3) litigate through the federal courts, or (4) do nothing. This project has two major objectives. First, to present stakeholders' perspectives -- in their own words -- as to how equitable and sustainable water sharing could be accomplished and why this has not yet been achieved. Second, to create an educational tool that allows students to explore potential outcomes of various water allocation decisions. This case offers students an opportunity to explore how science and social values interact in the management of a large, complex, common-pool resource. It builds on existing scholarship: Leitman (2005) has published a case study of the ACF Compact and its ultimate demise. We therefore propose an updated case study that focuses on what has occurred in the basin since 2004 in order to show the Compact efforts as part of a longer-term trajectory of policymaking and governance.