Georgia’s new water plan applauded, but it has its critics

21 01 2009

Many people are applauding the state’s new water conservation plan, now up for public comment, although some critics say it isn’t specific enough and is likely to suffer from lack of funding.

Water planning gained new urgency — and political legs — in the wake of a historic drought that has hit north Georgia hardest in the past several years.

A year ago, the state Legislature set up a framework for regional water planning. The water conservation plan is part of that framework, providing goals and best practices that can be incorporated into the regional plans. Eventually, the conservation plan states that it can be used to form rules to guide the state’s water permitting decisions.

The conservation plan includes guidance for seven major sectors of water users:

  • Agriculture
  • Electricity generation
  • Industrial and commercial
  • Domestic (residential) and nonindustrial
  • Landscaping
  • Golf courses
  • State agencies

These sectors are encouraged to choose the practices most appropriate for their situation. The plan suggests creating incentives for conservation but doesn’t pinpoint funding. Those two points are the rub for the most vocal conservation advocates. “Our concern is that this plan is not aggressive enough in terms of having real accountability,” said April Ingle, director of the Georgia River Network. “We’re also concerned about whether there is a real commitment to this on the part of the state, because there is no funding mechanism.”

Shana Uvarde, water program manager for the Georgia Conservancy, said her organization supports the plan, but she voiced the same concerns as Ingle. She also questioned whether all sectors are treated equally in the plan when it comes to their water conservation goals.

Read on here.