Following the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling declaring victory for Georgia in the Water Wars litigation, Governor Brian P. Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr issued the following statements:
“The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision is a resounding victory for Georgia and a vindication of years-long effort by multiple governors and attorneys general here in the Peach State to protect our citizens’ water rights,” said Governor Kemp. “Our state will continue to wisely manage water resources and prioritize conservation, while also protecting Georgia’s economy and access to water.”
“Today the Supreme Court of the United States, in a unanimous decision, affirmed what we have long known to be true: Georgia’s water use has been fair and reasonable,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “We will continue to be good stewards of our water resources, and we are proud to have obtained a positive resolution to this years-long dispute on behalf of all Georgians.”
In its decision handed down today, the Court held that Florida “failed to carry its burden” to prove that Georgia’s consumption of water from the ACF Basin caused the collapse of Florida’s oyster fisheries or harm to its river ecosystem. To the contrary, “Florida’s own documents and witnesses reveal[ed] that Florida allowed unprecedented levels of oyster harvesting in the years before the collapse” and also “failed to adequately reshell its oyster bars.” Further, “the data and modeling of its own experts … show[ed] that Georgia’s consumption had little to no impact on the Bay’s oyster population.” The Court also found “a complete lack of evidence that any river species suffered serious injury” from Georgia’s consumption.”
The Court concluded: “In short, Florida has not met the exacting standard necessary to warrant the exercise of this Court’s extraordinary authority to control the conduct of a coequal sovereign. We emphasize that Georgia has an obligation to make reasonable use of Basin waters in order to help conserve that increasingly scarce resource. But in light of the record before us, we must overrule Florida’s exceptions to the Special Master’s Report and dismiss the case.”
Read the ruling below.Water Wars Ruling
In 2013, Florida brought an original action against Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court. Florida argued that Georgia’s consumption of water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin caused low flows in the Apalachicola River, which harmed Florida’s oyster fisheries and river ecosystem. As a remedy, Florida asked the Court to cap Georgia’s consumption in the Basin.
The Court accepted the case and referred it to a Special Master. After 18 months of discovery and a 5-week trial, the Special Master issued a report recommending that the Court deny Florida relief. The Supreme Court reviewed that report and sent the case back to the Special Master to make further findings and recommendations, including whether Florida had proved any serious injury caused by Georgia; the extent to which reducing Georgia’s water consumption would increase Apalachicola River flows; and the extent to which any increased Apalachicola flows would redress Florida’s injuries.
After further briefing and a hearing, a new Special Master issued an 81-page report that again recommended that the Supreme Court deny Florida relief. Florida filed exceptions to that report with the Supreme Court. After more briefing and oral argument, the Court issued today’s decision, which overruled Florida’s exceptions to the Special Master’s Report and dismissed the case.