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IBT Watch: TVA Reservoirs at Capacity

January 9, 2010

Georgia’s 2007-08 brutal drought ended not unlike other historic droughts – with a lot of rain and more problems like the catastrophic Chattahoochee River floods of 2009.  According to recent SavannahNow.com and AugustaChronicle.com stories, Columbus, Atlanta, Macon, and Augusta each set new record rainfalls in 2009.

The massive Tennessee River basin was no different.  The Tennessee Valley Authority is reporting reservoirs filled to the brim, and they are operating all 29 hydroelectric stations at capacity 24-7 for the first time in three years.  As one TVA manager put it in a widely circulated AP story, “this type of situation is far more the exception than the rule.”  An estimated “extra 45 billion gallons of water is flowing” past Chattanooga every day.

All of that water flowing downstream has folks on both sides of the Georgia-Tennessee line thinking about the value of Inter-Basin Transfers (IBTs).  Some Georgians want to lay claim to some of the Tennessee’s water since some of the water originates in Georgia streams.  But folks in Tennessee continue to just say no to any Georgia water grab.  Either way you cut it, IBTs still have high costs.  IBTs require expensive pipelines and energy dependent pumping stations, plus, moving water from one basin to another has serious environmental consequences for each river basin.

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