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  Created 12-28-07  
 

GEC Action Alert:
GA WATER MANAGEMENT PLAN

 
     
 

The Georgia Legislature will be considering legislation to implement the Georgia Water Management Plan (Plan) in January 2008.  The Plan, as currently written, will divide the State through two different plans - one for Atlanta, and one for the rest of the State.  As the Legislature considers the Plan, changes can be proposed that can improve or further divide our State between those with water and those without water, and the economic opportunities that flow down stream to the coast with the water.  The ecology and economy of coastal Georgia are dependent upon the Plan keeping water flowing to the coast.  There is no less than the future of coastal Georgia at stake with the Georgia Water Management Plan.

   GEC members need to be informed and ready to act as the Legislature considers the Bill to implement the Georgia Water Management Plan.

   The following article, by April Ingle, Executive Director of the Georgia River Network, will provide an overview of  the key issues that still need to be resolved in the currently proposed Plan.
 

 
     
   

   Georgia’s Water Plan

Enough Clean Water?

    High and dry docks at Georgia’s West Point Lake this fall. While Athens and the rest of the state struggle with a record-breaking drought, state officials are planning out the use of all of Georgia’s water for decades to come.

   Dry, parched lawns. Rivers running at a trickle. Reservoirs reduced to mud puddles. Restrictions on water use. These are all-too-familiar images from our current drought.

   They also are immediate reminders that water in our state is finite, that there are limits on how much we can consume. From now through Dec. 14, members appointed to a statewide “Water Council” will finalize a plan designed to manage our water so that we have enough clean water for now and the future. In early 2008, the state legislature will be responsible for ratifying this plan.

 
 

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division drafted the plan, acknowledging right up front that the water in the state belongs to each and every one of us. It’s a great start, but the solutions proposed should be strengthened to keep our rivers flowing and our drinking water clean.

First, we need to make sure that water continues to flow in rivers around the state. The current plan, though, makes no guarantees. Metro Atlanta is growing rapidly with limited water availability, and real estate developers are thirstily eyeing the handful of rivers that flow through the metro area - as well as those hundreds of miles away - for new sources of water. The draft plan alone cannot require the metro Atlanta region to comply with its own provisions, because that area is covered by a regional water plan that was developed in 2003. It remains unclear how the state plan works with the completed metro plan to place common-sense limits on the amount of water available to add more and more houses, shopping centers and pavement to the metro region.

   Our water plan should guarantee that metro Atlanta’s thirst does not trump the availability of water for the rest of us. The plan should not allow us to be divided into “two Georgias,” metro Atlanta and the rest of the state. It must ensure that enough water remains in rivers outside of Atlanta in order to protect our communities, economies and cultures; to protect fish, wildlife, recreation and our children’s future.

   Second, the plan should propose specific efficiency and conservation requirements for all water permit-holders so that efficient water use is required everywhere, always. The draft plan says that goals for water efficiency will be developed, but it is not clear if these goals will be based on significant measurable reductions in water use, or whether they will apply to all water users.

   Third, for the reasons outlined above, the plan should set a specific policy on how much water must flow in our streams, or outline a process to develop such a policy.

   Fourth, the plan must be enforceable with clear and transparent criteria for decision-making. The current draft plan by itself is not enforceable and contains only policy statements, recommendations and conditional language such as “may” and “should,” rather than “will” and “shall.”

   Finally - and perhaps most important - no mention is made of funding to accomplish the plan. Without sufficient funding, the plan is nothing more than paper. In order to achieve success, we all need for local, state and federal governments to commit to specific, stable funding for the plan at significant levels over the course of several years.

   The Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) is a diverse group of 149 organizations working for a water plan that will provide enough clean water for all of Georgia, now and for future generations. GWC wants a plan that protects all of Georgia’s communities, calls for efficient water use every day, provides for water that is clean enough to drink and for fish that are safe enough to eat, and involves the public in planning their own future. The coalition encourages all citizens to become informed and to comment about the water plan, as it has the potential to be one of the most important policies for our waterways for years to come.
 

 
  For more information on the Water Management Plan click here.
 
 

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