Georgia working on water management plan

By: Melissa Tune Email
By: Melissa Tune Email

May 23, 2007

With each day passing and no rainfall in sight, drought conditions continue to worsen across Georgia. All but six counties in the state are now in an extreme or severe drought.

But help is on the way. Tonight the Georgia Water Council rolled out a new plan to help ease the problem.

It's been one of the driest springs in recent history. That's why environmental officials, local authorities and Georgia farmers are battling some tough decisions about using water. But tonight they gave us insight about a plan to help solve the problem.

The crowd was small but their concerns were big. Farmers, business owners and worried citizens listened to the Georgia Water Council's ideas about what to do about the drought. A new proposal is still in its early stages, but it's a long-term plan that Georgia's state environmental planners say will help conserve and manage the state's water supply during drought conditions down the road.

"We're working on the state's first comprehensive water management plan," said Georgia Environmental Protection Division policy advisor Gail Cowie. "We're talking 30 to 50 years."

Cowie says now more than ever a drought prevention blueprint is needed. She says currently the plan is just on paper but could become a reality by early next spring.

"The goal of that plan is to lay out a road map to ensure that water is there for all of Georgia's needs now and the future," she said.

Back in 2004, a law called the Georgia Comprehensive Statewide Management Planning Act required the EPD to submit a draft plan to the Water Council by July 1st of this year. After that, the Council will work with that plan from July to December, and in January they will submit the plan to the General Assembly for its consideration and adoption.

Cowie laid out the three main ideas the proposal is based on.

"Three main pieces about the plan: we will seek to have better availability about our water, and in the future what can we support in terms of water use and still maintain the quality of those resources, and we will work with local and regional bodies to best manage those long term," she said.

Environmental officials do face some tough decisions when it comes to covering all angles of water preservation, usage and efficiency, but Cowie says the sooner a solution is found, the better.

"The majority of the state is now either in a severe or extreme drought," she said. "It's unclear how long the drought will last, but it looks like it will be one of the more severe ones we've seen."

The Water Council scheduled town hall meetings around the state to discuss the statewide water planning effort and to give citizens an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments. The meetings focus on policies for water quantity as well as state water policies.

If you missed tonight's meeting, you can go to the Georgia Water Council's website for more information.

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