By Jeanne Bonner – GPB News

ATLANTA  —  A state task force formed to find new water sources met for the first time Monday. Georgia is under pressure to expand its water options.

Gov. Nathan Deal created the task force in January because the state could lose access to Lake Lanier next year. That federal ruling came after Florida and Alabama argued Georgia is taking too much water from the federal reservoir.

And at the task force first meeting, Gov. Deal said its decisions may be more critical than ongoing talks with Florida and Alabama.

Deal said the task force needs to identify sites for state reservoirs.

“I don’t think we can simply wait for those issues to resolve themselves in any format — either through the courts or through the negotiations process,” Deal told the task force. “There are things we have to do with the resources we have and the things we have jurisdiction over.”

Deal also said he sees the best potential for a settlement of the decades-long, tri-state water war with Alabama. He said he believes issues between Alabama and Georgia may be easier to resolve than the issues involving Florida. But he says a settlement with one or both of the states is just one part of the solution.

Georgia’s neighbors argue that metro Atlanta’s usage of water from Lake Lanier leaves too little for people and businesses downstream. They say it’s also harming shellfish beds fed by Florida’s Apalachicola River.

Deal has proposed designating $300 million over four years to address the problem.

Task force chairman Kevin Clark said the group expects to come up with a list of proposals by the end of this year.