ATLANTA – The historic Lake Lanier Water Service Provider agreement was announced enabling water supply through 2050.
Governor Brian P. Kemp – joined by former Governor Nathan Deal; Environmental Protection Division Director Rick Dunn; local officials; and representatives from the water service providers for the cities of Buford and Gainesville, as well as Gwinnett, Cumming, and Forsyth Counties – announced the historic Lake Lanier Water Service Provider agreement. Over 30 years in the making, this contract agreement enables these water service providers to draw from Lake Lanier’s water supply through the year 2050.
“Today, we’re celebrating a landmark agreement between the various parties represented here to draw from a crucial asset for for both our state and its future – Lake Lanier,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “After decades of work and negotiation, we have reached a sound, carefully developed, and fair resolution to this long and slow battle of the so-called broader ‘Water Wars,’ and I want to thank former Governor Nathan Deal and his administration, Director Dunn and his hardworking team, and the many others who have contributed to this decades-long process to make today possible.”
Lake Lanier is the largest reservoir in North Georgia, and over 1.5 million residents and businesses in Gwinnett, Forsyth, and Hall Counties, as well as other parts of northern metro Atlanta rely on its water supply. In January of 2021, the state announced a contract between Georgia and the US Army Corps of Engineers for water storage in Lake Lanier to meet the region’s estimated municipal and industrial water supply needs, both in the near-term and for its projected future needs. By signing onto this agreement, the various water service providers involved and the state’s Environmental Protection Division have completed this process.
“After many years of arduous labor, diligent legal work by many parties, and constant effort to see this through to the finish line, I’m so thankful Governor Kemp was able bring to fruition this quality agreement for all stakeholders,” said former Governor Nathan Deal. “This is a win for all of Georgia, and it underscores the importance of that timeless advice – ‘never give up!'”
The contract agreement grants the state 254,170 acre feet of water storage (13 percent of the lake when at full levels) on which the water service providers are able to draw. The cost of storage is calculated to be roughly $71 million, which will be spread over 30 years, in addition to annual operations and maintenance costs. Under Governor Kemp’s leadership, the state has already made two payments toward these costs, allocating over $14 million in the state budget to secure this agreement. Once payments are complete, the state will have permanent rights to the water storage.
“There are many unsung heroes who worked on this agreement over the decades that I want to thank, but I’d especially like to acknowledge the hard work of our attorneys, John Allen and Shelly Ellerhorst, the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, and our great team at the Environmental Protection Division, particularly our Watershed Protection Branch” said EPD Director Rick Dunn. “Without their deep expertise and dedication to reaching a quality agreement, we would not be in the position we are in today that will benefit a whole generation of Georgians.”
The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District provided crucial scientific data and planning support to the parties involved. Of important note is that metro Atlanta’s utilities actually use less water today than twenty years ago. Per capita use is down 30 percent since 2000, despite a significant population increase of 1.3 million residents. This is thanks in no small part to the Water Stewardship Act passed by the General Assembly and championed by then-Governor Perdue, prompted by the major droughts Georgia endured in the late 2000s.