Forsyth County commissioners hope the time is right to ask for more water.
The commission approved two resolutions Thursday, one asking the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to increase the amount of water the county can withdraw and a second asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow Forsyth to build an intake and receive storage capacity.
The 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Brian Tam absent, follows a June 25 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear an appeal of the litigation between Georgia, Florida and Alabama, which is often known as the “tri-state water wars.”
The decision of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned a lower court’s possible restrictions on Lake Lanier as a water source and ruled that Atlanta has a legal claim to the water.
Alabama, Florida and communities in south Georgia have argued that Atlanta uses too much water, harming wildlife, people and industries downstream.
Forsyth County has made several requests for an increase in allocation, including the most recent April 27, which have been denied based on the pending litigation.
With that decision in place, the county’s resolution states “the EPD’s previous reasons for delaying approval of the requested increase to the county’s water withdrawal limits no longer apply.”
Chairman Jim Boff said after the meeting that the request is intended to provide for Forsyth’s water needs.
He felt optimistic that the county would receive its own intake and increase its allocation after hearing an update Tuesday at the governor’s mansion, along with Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt and officials from other cities and counties across the state.
“I believe that the chances of getting at least some of it are greater now than ever before,” Boff said.
The county is requesting an increase from its maximum limit of 16 million gallons per day, or mgd, with a monthly average of 14 mgd, to 65 mgd with a monthly average of 40 mgd.
A lesser increase may also be requested if “a phased increase is more likely to be accepted by the EPD,” according to the resolution.
If the EPD or the corps denies the county’s request, the resolution authorizes the county water and sewer director to ask for an increase in the water withdrawal limit in the same amounts from the Chattahoochee River.
The lake allocation request to the EPD is congruent with the county asking the corps’ permission to build its own intake and allow the “appropriate storage capacity in Lake Lanier.”
The county, which does not have such a permit, currently buys water from Cumming, which has a lake intake. Forsyth and Cumming are in the process of renewing their water agreement.
The two agreed in principle to new terms in May. But unable to formalize the deal into a contract, the county most recently asked the city for an extension of the previous 25-year agreement through the end of the year or until a new document is signed.
Under the May terms, the county would buy untreated water for 15 years and treated water for five, each with a renewal option for another 15 or five years, respectively.