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Friday, July 16, 2010 - 4:07am

Environmentalists Want Open Water Talks

One year after a judge’s ruling that threatens Atlanta’s main drinking water source, environmental groups are calling for open water-war talks. They’re criticizing the state’s currrent strategy and urging the next governor to take a different course of action.

The riverkeepers of the Flint, Coosa and Chattahoochee are banding together and laying out their strategy to end the long-running water dispute between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

Flint River Keeper Gordon Rogers says closed meetings have to stop.

"They specifically included certain entities in those secret negotiations, specifically large energy companies," says Rogers, "and they specifically excluded Appalachicola riverkeepers which represent downstream interests and fishermen, both commerical and recreational."

The riverkeepers are calling on the next governor to push for open talks. And they want restrictions on piping water from one river system to another. They say water saving should play a bigger role, and conservation legislation passed this year is only a baby step.

But Governor Perdue’s spokesperson Bert Brantley says the new law is landmark and historic.

"The conservation bill is much more aggressive than I think you could have ever imagined before the ruling," says Brantely, "and I think that’s something to be very proud of."

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Sally Bethea says the new bill doesn’t go far enough.

"In metro Atlanta more than 100 million gallons per day are lost to leaks and unaccounted for uses," says Bethea citing a 2008 American Rivers report. She says that the act just measures leaks, but the state should take action on fixing them.

Last July, a federal judge ruled Atlanta had few water rights to Lake Lanier and ordered current flows be cut in 2012, giving the state three years to reach a water-sharing agreement.