Sustainable Water Management Plan for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin

 

The ACF River Basin

The southeastern U.S. has been endowed with abundant water resources and in the past, most water management issues were associated with flooding due to hurricane-induced tropical storms. Although these issues still exist, recent decades have seen rapid population growth with accompanying increases in water demand, agricultural expansion, severe droughts, urbanization, river pollution, endangered ecosystems, and litigious transboundary water disputes.  The latter are particularly intense in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin the resources of which are shared by Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

 

The ACF River Basin drains 19,600 square miles and has an average annual rainfall of 45 inches.  The monthly average flows indicate a distinct seasonality of wet springs and dry summers and early falls.  The principal consumptive water uses are irrigation, municipal and industrial water supply, and water for thermoelectric plant cooling. The percent return of the surface water withdrawals varies by water use, with thermoelectric withdrawals returning more than 90% and irrigation less than 10%.

 

In addition to the above consumptive uses, the ACF river system serves many other important water uses and operational requirements.  The river is navigable from the mouth of the Apalachicola in Florida up to Columbus and is used to transport construction materials. The basin includes four federal and five private hydropower facilities.  The ACF lakes and river reaches are major recreation sites generating significant economic activity. They also support a rich diversity of animal and plant life including the Apalachicola Bay, a very productive estuarine system that supports 131 freshwater and estuarine fish species and produces 90% of Florida’s oyster harvest, and the third largest shrimp catch. 

Project Scope and Activities

The development of an equitable ACF water sharing compact has challenged Alabama, Florida, and Georgia for more than two decades. Among the outstanding critical needs are (i) inclusive and effective stakeholder participation in planning and management processes; and (ii) development of comprehensive and reliable information and knowledge pertaining to the interdependencies of the basin water uses and their local and basinwide impacts.

 

The ACF Stakeholders (ACFS; http://acfstakeholders.org/) was established in 2010 to address the need for effective stakeholder participation and the development of a sustainable water management plan. ACFS is an inclusive 503(c) nonprofit organization with membership from 56 river basin stakeholders and is open to any group with interest in the ACF water management--cities, lake associations, farmers, industries, environmental citizen groups, power companies, fishermen, NGO's, and many others.

 

Under this project, GWRI is developing the technical information and knowledge base necessary to inform the stakeholder discussions toward a consensus and sustainable ACF water management plan. The main project tasks include:

  • Comprehensive assessment of the historical ACF basin unimpaired inflows;
  • Development of modeling tools for (1) river and reservoir simulation, (2) reservoir optimization, and (3) estuary hydrodynamic flow and salinity assessments;
  • Systematic and integrated use of the modeling tools to quantify the benefits, impacts, and tradeoffs of various water management alternatives formulated by the ACF stakeholder caucuses;
  • Communication of assessment findings to ACF stakeholder through several interactive workshops;
  • Development of reservoir regulation policies and other management strategies reflecting and realizing the stakeholder shared vision for sustainable water management.

Related Publications

Georgakakos, A.P., and M. Kistenmacher, 2012: Unimpaired Flow Assessment for the Apalachicola‐Chattahoochee‐Flint River Basin. Technical Report, Georgia Water Resources Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, 211p.

Acknowledgements

This project is sponsored by the ACF Stakeholders through a joint contract of the Georgia Water Resources Institute and the Black and Veatch Co. The project expected completion date is fall 2014. Additional information on this project will be provided through the GWRI website or can be obtained through the GWRI Director.