UT Hosts Regional Water Conference

ATLANTA — Scientists and policymakers met here Thursday to make sure hot tempers do not impede progress at an upcoming conference on regional water supplies.

The University of Tennessee hosts the Southeast Water Supply Roundtable here Nov. 8-10. Dr. David Feldman, a UT-Knoxville political scientist, said Thursday’s planning session focused on keeping debate at the November gathering civil and constructive.

“Water conflicts have reached a very contentious point. We do not want this roundtable to get embroiled in specific water disputes,” Feldman said.

“We encourage participants to step back from their own conflicts, look at long-term strategies to prevent disputes from becoming so contentious and confront water supply challenges in a constructive, cooperative manner.”

The November roundtable is a continuation of a 1998 symposium held in Chattanooga. More than 100 government officials, scientists, environmental engineers and others are registered to attend. A core group of about 30 participated in Thursday’s planning session.

Conference sponsors include UT, Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Feldman said drought has intensified water disputes, while “posturing and public displays of animosity” have hampered efforts to solve them.

Reliable, consistent data could help resolve many arguments, he said. For instance, Georgia, Alabama and Florida have different estimates of the amount of in river basins in those states.

“If you have questionable data it’s hard to trust, negotiate or split something up because you don’t know if you are being cheated,” Feldman said. “That issue has been reflected in a lot of water conflicts.”

Other strategies for resolving water disputes include public education, water conservation, and conflict resolution planning, Feldman said.