Governors approve on 16 percent water reduction

State and federal officials could not say how many more days of drinking water the mutual agreement buys metro Atlanta, but it will no doubt improve the 80-day supply that Georgia has. Georgia is drying up and running out of water.

The temporary flow reduction from Lake Lanier could be phased in starting November 15 and will give most of metro Atlanta more drinking water. The historic drought in Georgia is serious but state officials require more time to figure out how to deal with the region.

Lake Lanier is part of the Apalachicola-Flint-Chattahoochee River Basin, which forms the southern boundary between Georgia and Alabama and flows to the Apalachicola Bay in Florida’s Panhandle.

Georgia’s primary focus is on Lake Lanier, which generously provides drinking water for more than 3 million people in metro Atlanta. The part of the deal that involves Lake Lanier would cut the domestic supply of water subtly flowing to Florida to 2.7 billion gallons a day, from the current 3.2 billion gallons. About a third of that water is provided by the lake.

The reduction would be phased in, in part to keep two federally protected mussel species alive.

Officials of Atlanta-based Southern Co. said two of the company’s power plants, a nuclear plant in southeastern Alabama and a coal-fired plant in Florida, could continue operating with the reduced flows out of Lake Lanier. But the Florida plant, which powers about 19,000 homes, can operate with the lower flow for only two months.