Comments on the Draft State Water Management Plan, December 2007

By David Kyler, Executive Director
Center for a Sustainable Coast
Saint Simons Island, Georgia

1. Georgia does not have a water supply crisis, but rather the state suffers from a profound water management problem, which the plan being proposed should address more effectively. The responsible solution to this problem is NOT to accommodate inflated water demand with quick-fix and wasteful engineered solutions such as reservoirs, inter-basin transfers, aquifer storage and recovery, or desalination. Instead, Georgia should take immediate steps to use proven methods for greatly enhancing the efficiency of water resource use and protection.

These methods are well known by EPD and other water management professionals. In fact, most of these are methods described in EPD¹s Water and Wastewater Management Plan for the coastal region. They include:
  • Eliminating leaks in aging and poorly maintained water distribution systems,

  • Recovering and reusing wastewater for irrigation, residential, commercial, and industrial purposes,

  • Upgrading wastewater treatment by both (a) replacing septic systems in higher-density developed areas with central sewage treatment systems, and (b) upgrading older and poorly maintained sewage treatment plants with newer, more efficient systems, include aerobic - anaerobic hybrid facilities that actually generate the energy needed to power treatment operations.

  • Handling stormwater to keep is separate from sewage going to treatment plants, to make the best possible use wastewater system capacity.
2.Energy, budgeting, taxing, and land use policies must be revised to be consistent with water management goals.
  • Since energy production is the largest user of water, including consumptive use, priority must be given to improving energy efficiency, thereby reducing per capita demand, and to the rapid shift to renewable sources of energy that are far less dependent on water for either processing or cooling.

  • Without sustained and sufficient funding to conduct studies and implement a comprehensive water and energy conservation program, no amount of good planning will produce lasting results. The general assembly budgeting process, the state tax, code, and water-user fees must be implemented to provide fair and reliable funding needed to achieve responsible water management.

  • The tax code should be amended to reward the selection and use of suitable building sites, with adequate soils, elevation, drainage, and supporting resources such as water, and to impose disincentives for development where adverse consequences are inevitable due to environmental conditions and resource constraints.

  • Land use policies at the local level and acquisition of conservation lands by the state must be made consistent with environmental carrying capacity and the precautionary principle. Until land use and public infrastructure investment decisions are made rationally, based on comprehensive assessment of site conditions and sustainable resource availability, Georgia will continue to suffer the consequences of poorly planned growth, including deficient water supply and quality.
Combined, these measures, if mandated, would save millions of gallons daily throughout the state's watersheds and across nearly all user groups. The combination of water conservation practices, sufficient and sustained funding, energy policy advancements and rational land-use incentives, will ensure that Georgia has utterly no water supply problem for decades to come, even under drought conditions. The state plan must include these measures as requirements, not options, and substate water planning must be done within districts that are consistent with boundaries of drainage areas (watersheds) and aquifer use areas.
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