Georgia counties, thirsting for water from the Tennessee River, can apply to reach the Nickajack Reservoir via a stretch of TVA land connecting the lake and Dade County.
Gil Francis, a TVA spokesman, said Dade County could apply to use the "marginal strip" of land to reach Nickajack, but he said a host of factors would need to be considered before the inter-basin transfer could be approved.
Mr. Francis said, "The Tennessee River flows to the Ohio River, not to Atlanta." He said diverting the millions of gallons of water that Atlanta needs "could mean water shortages in two river basins, not just one."
He said a 2004 TVA water study, which an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said showed the Tennessee River "flush with water" and well able to supply Atlanta, did not take into account the drought that occurred afterwards.
Mr. Francis said Maryville/Alcoa and other portions of the Tennessee Valley have faced water challenges due to the drought.
Dade and Walker counties are working on a plan that they hope results in a pipeline from Nickajack Lake into Dade County, through a tunnel in Lookout Mountain into Walker County, and on to Atlanta eventually.
The Georgia Legislature has revived an old "border war" that seeks to have 51 square miles of land near Chattanooga taken into Georgia - giving the state access to the Tennessee River.
However, if Georgia was able to get permission to go across the half-mile strip of land separating Dade County from the Nickajack Reservoir, it would not need to get the Tennessee land.
Mr. Francis said if such a request is received from Georgia, it would receive the attention of TVA President Tom Kilgore and the TVA Board and also be studied by TVA staff.
He said a host of factors would need to be considered, including the environmental effect, the effect on hydroelectric plants of the loss of the water, and the effect on municipal water supplies in the Tennessee Valley.
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution article said, "The Tennessee River, though, is flush with water, according to a 2004 TVA study. By 2030, the Tennessee could supply Atlanta with 264 million gallons a day - triple the average amount used daily by the city of Atlanta last December - without 'substantially' affective river levels."
Mr. Francis said the data cited was only a small portion of the study and not the main focus.
He said, "That was only a hypothetical model and does not look at the impacts (of drawing down that much water). It does include factor in the driest period in the valley in 118 years."