Drought-proof Lanier?

Lake Lanier is up 20 feet from its 2008 drought stage.

Why is it they’re pushing to raise it another two?

Multi-parameter chart of Lake Lanier stage, Woodruff dam discharge,
and Apalachicola’s annual tailwater discharge volume

Georgia is advocating raising the “full pool” of Lake Lanier from 1071 to 1073 feet above sea level as a low-cost way to fulfill its water supply quota instead of trying to build a bunch of new and smaller reservoirs instead. (read article)

As long as Lanier’s full, we tend not to hear a peep …

But drop it down 10 feet and the tri-state water war is on:

Woodruff Dam and Lake Seminole (source: Wikipedia)

Georgia holds the water and all the people (i.e., Atlantans) but Florida has the paper right to the water which Corps of Engineer rules and a judge’s gavel guarantee.

There’s an estuary and an fishery in downstream Apalachicola Bay that depend on minimal flows from the river system, which during a drought depends exclusively on main-stem releases from Woodruff Dam (i.e., Seminole Lake) which in turn is replenished from way north by headwater releases from Buford Dam (i.e., Lake Lanier). Alabama’s caught up in it as well.

Map of Apalachicola watershed. Notice how it extends way north into Georgia

Has drought always been an issue?

Until recently, not really. The river used to reliably discharge between 15-20 million acre feet per year into Apalachicola Bay, but over the past ten years a series of droughts has regularly dropped that number below ten. Especially noticeable has been a decadal drop off in spring flows (i.e., large black dots), a trend that sets the stage for longer and deeper drops into the summer baseflow recession (i.e., red “+” signs).

Atlanta hasn’t exactly gotten “less thirsty” over that time period, either.

Spring flows are starting to surge,
but in general they’ve been down for most of the last decade.

Bottom line:

Hydro-geo-politics of this sort don’t heat up and get hammered out up until they absolutely have to. For Lanier that means a drop down to 1060 ft above sea level or lower.

It’s usually denial until drought hits, then the hard decisions get made.

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