Program Synopsis

"Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over" – prophetic words credited to Mark Twain. Yet even he could scarcely have imagined they would one day apply to the Southeastern United States, a region better known for plentiful rainfall and abundantly flowing rivers. But for almost twenty years three states – Georgia, Florida and Alabama – have been locked in a fierce struggle over water.

In the Florida Panhandle at the mouth of the Apalachicola river, Bevin Putnal has been harvesting oysters for 50 years.


A relentless drought followed in 2009 by a judge's dramatic ruling have only exacerbated deep-seated problems over water.

It's a clash with implications far outside the region. Water disputes, once considered a problem confined to the arid West, are moving into the water-rich East with surprising speed. As they strive to maintain growth, states up and down the East coast now frequently find themselves struggling with their neighbors, sometimes all the way to the Supreme Court, as they try to ensure access to a once abundant but now highly sought-after resource.

Through the eyes of concerned individuals and experts, this one-hour documentary looks at the complex origins of the conflict, the challenges to be overcome as well as some promising solutions. The stakes are high and the implications profound. Unless drastic changes are made in how water in the fast-growing Southeast is managed, as early as 2012, Atlanta, the region's economic engine, could find itself losing up to a half of the water it depends on from the Chattahoochee River basin.

Joe O'Grady lives in Seale, Alabama, but every day he drives across the Chattahoochee River to Columbus, Georgia. He works at a large Kodak plant that uses millions of gallons of water to make printing plates.

Sally Bethea heads up river to monitor dissolved oxygen levels at the mouth of Peachtree Creek, just below where the City of Atlanta draws its water supply.

Although they've never met, these three individuals are unwittingly part of a conflict that pits their home states against one another as they vie for access to the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, the nation's 5th largest.