Instead, federal lawmakers have decided to give the governors of the three states more time to work things out.
We hope Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue uses this concession wisely. The last thing Georgia needs is a straight up vote in Congress on how to parcel out the water from the federally controlled Lake Lanier.
That's because the numbers are stacked against Georgia. This state has 15 voting members in Congress. Florida has 27 and Alabama has nine. The Sunshine State will win every time, even if Alabama sides with Georgia.
Thus, solving the problem of water consumption must not come down to raw politics. Instead, a resolution should be based on what is best in terms of jobs, economic opportunities and the environment for all three states. That means Georgia will have to give up something on its end.
Clearly, the devil is in the details. The challenge for Georgia is to convince the other states that a healthy, robust metro Atlanta helps the entire Southeast. That's not going to be easy. Indeed, that's a tough message to sell within some areas of Georgia.
One thing Atlanta must do is prove that it's a wise steward of the water it uses. That region must embrace the strongest conservation practices possible to bolster Georgia's case.
Clearly, that's in the Savannah area's best interest, too. If metro Atlanta wastes less water, there's less temptation to pull water out of the Savannah River basin and redirect it to the big city.
Unfortunately, Georgia is bargaining with its back up against the wall, while Florida and Alabama have time on their sides. Unless the three states can cut a deal by 2012, the federal judge who is hearing this case has threatened to cut back Atlanta's water flow from Lake Lanier to 1970s levels, when that area had less than half of its current population. Georgia loses. That would be devastating. But so would losing a political fight in Washington.
Lake Lanier is blessed with plenty of water right now. Last month, it reached its full pool level, which is good news following the 2007-08 drought.
However, it's better news that Congress is taking a pass and giving Perdue a chance to get the other governors to the table. Let's hope he succeeds.