SHANNON BONNEY wants to
Soothe the Waters
and become part of the SOLUTION
hannon Bonney has worked with the ACF Stakeholders Group since beginning graduate studies at UGA in 2010. Although their name may suggest a racehorse cartel, that would be
wrong. This consortium concerns a vital resource, and the stakes are high and growing. The ACF represents the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin. Shannon Nichole Bonney is the most affable of environmental warriors, and her mission is to help negotiate a high-stakes matter: water rights. BY CYNTHIA ADAMS PHOTOS BY NANCY EVELYN
To the outer world, the raison d'etre for a tri-state group drawn from Georgia, Alabama, and Florida is to mediate an agreement for better water management. The involved players – governmental, educational, policy makers, environmental stewards and volunteer figures—have been at the core of a “water war”–a term graduate student Shannon Bonney winces over and dislikes. In fact, when the term, “water détente” is suggested, she moans and shakes her head no. “Please keep any war terminologies out,” she says. The factions, these previously warring factions who could not come to terms with teams of litigators in court, are now friendly foes, according to Bonney. She says the stakeholders are finding another, better way, to make resource policy. The intra-state dispute has been ongoing since at least 1990, according to the International Business Times. The three states of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida are affected by the AFC water basin, which is largely regulated by the Army Corps of Engineers. By the late 1990s, there were agreements brokered between Alabama, Florida, and Georgia—each impacted by the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin. And there was an agreement negotiated between Alabama and Georgia who share the ACT basin, the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa.
The news, however, has been and continues to be, worrying. According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, or SELC, the states have now been battling over water resources for nearly 20 years—and counting. In June of 2013, Robert Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, visited Georgia concerning the water usage conflict. Kennedy argued that the implications were larger than regional, affecting water issues hundreds of miles away in the Gulf of Mexico. "When Atlanta and the state of Georgia and Alabama and Florida struggle over competing claims to the water flows, we have to also consider the impacts on the aquatic ecosystem, not just for the sake of the oysters and fisheries... but also for the human populations and the giant economic engines,” Kennedy implored. While two major river basins affect all three states, Georgia has first dibs geographically. The stakes for all concerned grew greater as Atlanta’s population swelled, eclipsing the growth of other Georgia cities. According to the 2010 United States Census, Atlanta’s population was 420,003. Also, a severe, historic drought situation in 2007 gripped Atlanta, which intensified matters, and during which there were mere days of adequate water supply remaining.
UGA Graduate School Magazine W I N T E R 2 014