Water warsGeorgia wants to redraw its northern border to tap Tennessee River water

Published 25 February 2013

Lawmakers in Georgia are renewing efforts to claim Georgia’s right to tap into the Tennessee River’s  water supply. The lawmakers hope to achieve this by raising questions about the exact demarcation of the border between the two states.

Lawmakers in Georgia are  renewing efforts to claim Georgia’s right to tap into Tennessee’s  water supply. The lawmakers hope to achieve this by raising questions about the exact demarcation of the border between the two states.


In a 171-2 vote taken earlier last week, the Georgia House of Representativesadopted a resolution seeking a strip of land that leads to the Tennessee River. Acquiring the land would give Georgia, which has dealt with drought issues recently,  water rights to the river.

Fox News reportsthat the Tennessee River water  has been been  underused, and Atlanta’s population in the past twenty years has grown exponentially, increasing the demand for water. Many in Georgia argue that the best way to meet Georgia’s growing demand for water is to tap the Tennessee River, but lawmakers in Tennessee have  different ideas.

Tennessee lawmakers say they are ready to fight  to protect their water.

“I don’t think anyone’s taking it seriously,” Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick told FoxNews.

Georgia State Representative Harry Geisinger, who is leading the charge, said getting “the water [Georgia is] owed” is a priority, and while the state’s water supply is sufficient today, it will not be that way in fifteen years.

“We need to look ahead,” Geisinger said.

According to Geisinger, the border between Georgia and Tennessee  was “established at the 35th parallel of north latitude and would have been located on the northernmost bank of the Tennessee River at Nickajack” – a lake connected to the river. Geisinger says that two representatives, one from each state, who, in 1818, drew the border line, got the location of the line wrong. He argues that the line the two men drew is too far to the south, at some places by more than a mile, thus giving Tennessee control over territory, and water, which rightfully belong to Georgia.


Geisinger also said that the 30,000 citizens who would become Georgia residents if the border were to be redrawn, are exerting pressure on Tennessee politicians not to give in to Georgia’s demands. The reason:  Georgia has a 6 percent income tax, while Tennessee does not have one.

This is not the first time lawmakers in Georgia has raised the issue of the border with Tennessee, and the state is also engaged in on-going legal  battles with Alabama and Florida over border demarcation.

Alabama and Florida officials filed petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of an appellate court decision last June that gave Georgia rights to Lake Lanier.

Florida hopes to reverse a ruling last June by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned a 2009 lower court decision that said Georgia had no right to water in the federal reservoir. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson told Georgia it had to reach an agreement on downstream water releases or else he would deny metro Atlanta’s access to the lake,  leaving 3.5 million citizens without a source of water.

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