ATLANTA – All of Georgia, not just metropolitan Atlanta, will suffer the effects of a federal court decision that Lake Lanier was not designated by Congress as a source of drinking water, government officials and legal experts stressed Friday.
"The pain is going to be felt all over Georgia," said Harold Reheis, vice president of Joe Tanner and Associates.
And the best solution to Georgia's water woes, according to Georgia's EPD Director Carol Couch, is to approach the issue regionally without state lines in mind.
The lunchtime meeting of the Council for Quality Growth featured a panel that included Reheis and Couch, as well as Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Also taking part were Sam Olens, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, and Gerald Pouncey Jr., a partner at Morris, Manning & Martin.
Couch said Georgia will appeal the July 17 order by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson that requires the state to reach an agreement with
Florida and Alabama or persuade Congress to authorize Lake Lanier as a water source in three years.
Still, she said, securing the state's water resources will require a holistic approach.
Reheis stressed that the ruling is not just a problem for metro Atlanta. He said it will affect economic growth across the state.
"I think that outside of Georgia, metro Atlanta is seen to be Georgia," Reheis said.
"When you go around to Chicago and New York and Los Angeles and people are talking about should we bring our business to Georgia, they're really talking about bringing it to metro Atlanta in large part.
"If they perceive that — again, since Georgia is Atlanta in the view of a lot of folks — they're going to perceive not that Atlanta's out of water, but that Georgia's out of water.
"So they're not going to bring their business to Macon or Valdosta or Savannah or Columbus if they get the impression that Atlanta means Georgia's out of water."