The emerging conflict is between government officials seeking a bargaining chip in a tri-state water dispute and environmentalists concerned the plan undercuts water rights.
Legislation put forward by Georgia's Environmental Protection Division would allow the state government and others to invest in augmentation projects, or pumps that send water from underground aquifers into waterways when flows run dry. The bill focuses on water use in the lower Flint River.
State officials say the bill is about protecting farmers and preventing litigation over wildlife. But funding documents show backers envision a system where extra water put into southwest Georgia would be traded for greater water use for metro Atlanta.