Center Comments on Water Management Plan
Comments to the Georgia Water Council by David Kyler on the
Georgia Water Resources Management Plan
June 2, 2007
I am submitting the following comments on behalf of
the Center for a Sustainable Coast, a membership-supported non-profit organization that represents the
public interest in issues related to coastal Georgia's growth, economy, and environment. We have been
an active participant in the Basin Advisory Council for the Satilla, St. Marys, and Suwannee rivers.
As of this month, the Center is celebrating tens years of successful staffed operation.
- We need to ensure broad and balanced representation on watershed and aquifer planning
advisory councils. For the water management program to succeed it must have the support of
all water users. This requires credibility that can only be achieved through accountability,
transparency, and dedication to long-term goals that serve all Georgians. For all of these desired
features to be realized, the program must be responsive to various regional bodies yet to be established.
The policy framework of the management plan needs to ensure that these bodies will be truly representative
of all those who have a legitimate claim in sharing the responsible use of Georgia's waters.
We cannot afford to allow the state's water management to be compromised by the political
influence of special interests or the dominance of some political jurisdictions over others
in their competition for limited water resources. Such compromises must be avoided by forming
well-balanced, watershed and aquifer-based advisory councils that are strictly required to conform
to sound principles of water management, such as those being proposed in the management plan.
- Must thoroughly explore and implement conservation alternatives prior to supporting the
development of new supplies. Responsible water management is not easy nor is it inexpensive,
especially in such a rapidly growing state. It may be tempting for decision-makers to avoid the
tough decisions required in this effort by turning to so-called engineered solutions for expanding
and manipulating water supply, instead of dedicating themselves to a comprehensive water conservation
strategy. However, these temptations to be misled by false claims of quick solutions for increasing
water supply must be rigorously resisted. All such supply alternatives, including inter-basin transfers
and desalination, will ultimately cost Georgians far more than an effective water conservation program -
and such costs will be not only in dollars but in reduced options for future generations and declining quality
of life for the vast majority of our citizens. Most notably, the energy and environmental costs of engineered
approaches for expanding water supply make them impractical and unsustainable. At best they are short-term
solutions that will cause long-term problems that Georgians will deeply regret.
- Adopt specific, measurable standards of performance for tracking and evaluating the management plan
to ensure that it serves the long-term interests of Georgians. Any effective management plan must have
ways to determine its relative success. In water management, we must have specific criteria such as
reduced pollution, improved water-using efficiency and reduced waste, less extreme flow conditions, and
improved fish diversity that, combined, will help verify the extent to which goals are being met.
The criteria should be carefully considered in terms of their reliability and the degree to which they
can be implemented using consistent procedures and data that serve multiple purposes. Using criteria must
be integral to administration of the management plan, and serve as a key element in guiding decisions to
modify the plan as needed to improve results.
- Decision-makers must recognized that state investment in reliable, accountable water management is money
well spent, and the program must be fully funded if it is to succeed. Current funding for both water resources
planning and regulatory enforcement for water protection is woefully shy of the mark - somewhere around half of
what is needed. Unless these costs are fully covered, Georgia's economy and quality of life will both suffer.
The effectiveness of the state's water management efforts will be crucial to Georgia's future, and the plan will
only be able to achieve its purpose if implementation is adequately funded. Short-changing this program is not
an option if we hope to enjoy its benefits. The costs of planning and implementation may require creative
methods for financing the costs of plan implementation, but above all we must be sure that selected funding
methods are fair, so that the burden of cost is proportional to the legitimate water needs of various user
- The less the natural hydrology in our watersheds is altered, the more sustainable and reliable our water
supplies will be, the better our water quality, and the healthier the state's diverse fish habitats. This
means not only improving protection of in-stream flow, but also, where possible, restoring flow characteristics
by re-establishing the native landscapes that help supply and filter water throughout our river basins and
aquifers. As many know, it is well established that the ditching and draining of freshwater wetlands,
including swamps and bottomland forests, has radically altered the rate at which stormwater runs into waterways. This alteration has produced various adverse consequences for river flow rates, water quality, aquatic habitat,
and the destructive effects of the extreme conditions of drought and flooding. Georgia's water management
program should include a strong and focused element of land management if it is to succeed, and this will
require incentives for restoring natural hydrological features of our landscape.
- Georgia must reconcile other state policies and practices with the priorities and objectives of the state
water management plan. It is evident that Georgia conducts a wide variety of regulatory and governance functions
that have an influence on the use, conservation, and management of water resources. Among these are energy
development, now being addressed through a state energy strategy, and economic development programs in both
urban and rural areas that can profoundly affect water demands, water uses, and the impact of these on various
issues of direct relevance to the objectives of water management. Due to the cost, importance, and difficulty of
implementing a statewide water resources management plan, it is imperative that the Governor and Legislature provide
the means for ensuring that all state policies are reviewed and revised as necessary to eliminate conflicts with the
Georgia Water Management Plan. Ideally, we recommend an annual or biennial policy summit to be hosted by the
governor or lieutenant governor as a means for reconciling all state policies with one another, and to use the
results of this effort to guide legislative proposals. This will not only improve the effectiveness of state
programs, but it will also serve as a prudent step in fiscal responsibility, supporting the financial interests
of Georgia by eliminating counterproductive activities.