Matthew Hokanson

'Water wars' It's January at LaGrange College, and that means chemistry major Matthew Hokanson is taking advantage of an intensive one-month class called "Water Wars" that studies the water-resource debate between Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

The Interim, or "Jan Term," is the middle of the 4-1-1 academic calendar. Interim courses like the one Matthew is taking are designed to encourage students to explore course content outside their majors through personal hands-on experience. Those experiences range from on-campus projects, independent research, internships and study-away experiences.

Taught by Associate Biology Professor Melinda Pomeroy-Black, "Water Wars" focuses on the 20-year struggle the three states have had as they vie for access to the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.

"The class interested me because even though I knew the three states had been arguing, I didn't really know why," Matthew says.

The "water wars" affect LaGrange and Troup County's West Point Lake, which has been adversely affected by the three-state struggle over how the water should be distributed. When more water is kept in Atlanta's Lake Lanier by Buford Dam to supply the vital water needs of the city's massive and growing number of residents, less water is released into the Chattahoochee River, which flows into West Point Lake.

Areas of Alabama and Florida have been affected adversely as well as the state of Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have tried to address the Atlanta metro area's water supply.

The class has studied the history of conflicts over water to help achieve perspective of the tri-state debate over nature's most precious resource.

"One of our first homework assignments was to explore water systems throughout the world, such as the Tigris and Euphrates, and the Yellow River," he said. "It makes our argument seem a little obsolete. We have all the water we need; it's just how it's distributed. In other places, there have been countries upriver that control all the water and dam it, not letting any of it go downstream."

Matthew's class has visited West Point Dam and also met in Atlanta with Sally Bethea, the founding director of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, an advocacy group she formed to protect and restore the Chattahoochee River, its tributaries and watershed.

The class will soon travel to the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint River Basin in Florida to study the environment, including the oysters, and learn first-hand how politics are adversely affecting the area.

"I'm a chemistry major, and even though this whole issue is somewhat biology-based, its science aspect really interests me," Matthew says. "The class is more about politics than actual science, but you have to have a basic understanding of science to understand the politics of it all."

Friends for the Journey

LaGrange College attracts the best and the brightest from all over the world. For example, our most recent incoming class consisted of men and women from 19 states and 10 countries, and included:

  • 76 members of Beta Club or the National Honor Society
  • 71 members of service organizations
  • 51 team captains in varsity sports
  • 25 leaders involved in student government, with 11 presidents
  • Three students involved in school publications, one as editor
  • Two Eagle Scouts
  • 20 musicians in band or orchestra
  • 18 singers in choir
  • 31 entertainers in performing arts
  • 85 students in religious activities.

But you don’t have to be a star in high school to succeed at LaGrange. Here, you’re given the opportunity to discover the best in yourself and find your destiny – all in a caring and supportive environment.