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ATLANTA — The Southeast faces a water shortage and officials from six states who are meeting here say the problem demands a regional solution.

“There’s a perception that we live in a water-rich region,” Dr. David Feldman of the University of Tennessee said Wednesday.

“But the dramatic growth the Southeast is experiencing is rapidly intensifying the competition for our water resources. We’re already seeing disruptive and costly water disputes springing up between states in the region.”

Feldman, a water policy researcher, spoke at the Southeast Water Supply Roundtable, convened by UT-Knoxville’s Energy, Environment and Resources Center. Representatives from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina are attending.

The roundtable’s regional initiative would promote conservation, educate the public and political leaders to the shortage problem and seek to avoid costly litigation between states and local governments.

Urban growth in the Atlanta and Nashville metropolitan areas is bringing water quality issues to the crisis level, Feldman said.

“We’ve been concerned about water quality for years. Only now are we understanding that quantity is a huge issue and one that also influences quality,” Feldman said.

The EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and TVA are participating in the workshop and joining UT in sponsoring it. Other sponsors include the Appalachian Regional Commission, Southern State Energy Board, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service.