Forsyth County officials continue to review water supply prospects as the tri-state water war continues.
The water and sewer committee met Monday to discuss, among other topics, water options other than the current source of Lake Lanier.
Tim Perkins, county director of water and sewer, said the litigation between Alabama, Florida and Georgia on rights to water from the lake have taken a positive turn for Georgia, but still have a ways to go.
In June, a circuit court reversed a July 2009 decision that would have severely limited much of metro Atlanta from withdrawing water from Lanier.
Most recently, Perkins said, Florida and Alabama asked for an extension to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Paul Magnuson’s 2009 decision, affecting some 3 million people, had imposed a three-year deadline for Georgia to find another source of water, have Congress reauthorize Lanier as a source of drinking water or negotiate a sharing agreement with Florida and Alabama.
“There are still phases of the lawsuit,” Perkins said. “Even though Georgia had a big victory, there are still challenges. We’ve still got to keep our options open.”
The local committee, which discusses the day-to-day operations of the department, postponed its last meeting over concerns it may not have been adequately advertised.
Monday, members also received an update on the county’s study on groundwater sources.
The county currently buys most of its water from the city of Cumming, which has a permit to withdraw from Lanier.
Forsyth has not been able to secure a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow it to withdraw water from the lake.
Several feasible wells have been uncovered in south Forsyth, near the Chattahoochee River, including some on the McClure property, which the county plans to open as a green space park next year.
Perkins said testing has confirmed the source is ground, not surface, water, which would impact the river.
“This was a real unique find along the river down here, with the consolidated soil layer that provides and holds a lot of groundwater,” he said. “We haven’t found that in other areas along the river. The geologists that did this study were pretty amazed.”
Perkins said the wells could yield between 3 and 5 million gallons per day.
The county’s current use averages about 12 million gallons of water per day, with a maximum day of 22 million gallons, according to a recent study.
“It’s a small amount of water,” he said, “but it’s the cheapest water you’re going to get. It’ll help average our cost and get our cost of supplying water down.”
Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt also briefed the committee on discussions about a possible Tennessee River transfer to supply water for north Georgia.
“When I first heard about this, I had some serious doubts,” Merritt said. “But I think it’s a more viable, realistic project than what I originally thought.”
Perkins said the transfer could provide a lot of drinking water for the region.
Lanier remains the top option for water, and Perkins discussed his involvement on a committee working to find an acceptable solution.
The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Stakeholders have been meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake.
“The general and the colonel [of the Corps] came to our last meeting and said this was the only group that he had faith in that could make a positive case or help in settling the suits,” Perkins said.
The general told the ACF Stakeholders that a settlement is the best possible solution. Any information to aide in that process would be beneficial, Perkins said.
The group has been working on the second phase of the lawsuit, which focuses on how much water flow would be required for the endangered species downstream.
“It hasn’t yet been determined how much of that has to come out of released from Lake Lanier,” Perkins said. “That may dictate how much water is available.”