In my last post I promised a report on water in Australia, and now that I have returned from the trip (OK, a couple weeks ago, but I had work to do!), this is the first of hopefully several posts. It was a great tour; I met many wonderful people and learned much.
For the next two weeks, I will be traveling around Australia with a US delegation as guests of the Government here, meeting with water managers and touring facilities related to water reuse, desalination and irrigation. Australia is actively promoting its water management experience, with a group of companies coming together to form Water Australia with the stated goal of exporting at least $5 billion of water-related goods and services by 2015. It is certainly true that Australia has experienced significant droughts over the past decade, and they have responded aggressively to the situation (e.g., as reported yesterday in the New York Times), although certainly not without pain and controversy. I am interested to see some of their solutions on the ground, especially in comparison to California, which over the three years of the 2007-2009 drought did almost nothing.
There has been no drought of studies, articles and blog posts about the connection between water and energy in the past 2-3 years (e.g., see recent Special Report on Water vs. Energy by IEEE Spectrum), but I would like to add a few thoughts to what is still an emerging area. It is perhaps fitting that I am posting this from the Washington Dulles airport, in town for a water policy conference, since it was from right here in the airport last December that I launched the PrivateWaterLaw Blog.
Coinciding with population growth and several years of drought in the southeastern United States, the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been litigating their respective rights in the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers in U.S. District Court in the case of In re Tri-State Water Rights Litigation. On 17 July 2009, Judge Magnuson issued a Memorandum and Order ruling that water supply is not an authorized purpose for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operation of Lake Lanier in northeastern Georgia, despite the fact that the reservoir is the largest source of water for metro Atlanta. The ruling has created significant uncertainty for the future of Atlanta regional water supplies and resulted in a rush of manpower (if not any water yet) to put out the ensuing legal and political fire.