Without water, there is no economic development, no agriculture, transportation, sanitation - the list goes on and on. It is no wonder that our neighbors would like to lay claim to all of the water. Control the water and you pretty much control everything. Realizing the urgent need for forward thinking plans, the Georgia General Assembly passed an aggressive, comprehensive water planning bill in 2008. Dire concerns about inadequate water conservation and supply compelled us to take the bull by the horns and develop progressive strategies that would benefit Georgians.
A function of the 2008 Water Legislation was the creation of ten regional water councils along with the already existing Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District.
Eight residents of Senate District 31 serve on these councils. Each council has a separate water planning process. These councils were charged with assessing resources, identifying needs, and developing a coordinated, statewide approach to Georgia's water future through 2050.
Additionally, all plans must aim to support the state's economy, protect public health and natural systems, and to enhance the quality of life for all Georgians. Goals include to conserve and reuse water, protect from future shortages of water, and to promote the best use of our water resources.
Since regions vary by geography and the unique needs of each community, it is important that scientific analysis of the water resources, the projected future condition of the resources, current demand, and estimated future demands be paramount in determining a plan.
Our District, the 31st, is split between three pivotal regions in the water plan: The Coosa - North Georgia Regional Council, Middle-Chattahoochee Council and the Metropolitan North Georgia Council. A website, GeorgiaWaterPlanning.org, was created to allow easy access to the process and progress made by the councils.
With the aid and support of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, various state agencies, and the Governor's Water Contingency Task Force, these water councils have worked toward a common goal of developing short and long term goals for water usage and conservation in our state.
These long-term regional water resource management plans include resource assessments, estimates of current and future water needs, and those management practices necessary to meet the region's needs within the capabilities of the resources. In addition, the councils examine 10-, 20-, 30-, and 40-year water and wastewater demand forecasts for each region to determine potential changes the region will experience and identify any "gaps" that may exist between the resources' capabilities and the future regional needs. The councils consistently recommend additional reservoirs for storage of water.
During the 2011 Session, in an effort to assist local water authorities with the financing of water supply projects, we passed and the governor has now signed what we refer to as the Georgia Public/Private Water Supply Act of 2011 (Senate Bill 122).
SB 122 takes even more aggressive steps in addressing the urgency of making sustainable water plans for today and 50 years from now.
The Georgia Public/Private Water Supply Act of 2011 will allow state and local governments and authorities to voluntarily partner with private investors on the construction of reservoirs and other water infrastructure projects.
This is a prime example of the way we, as legislators, promote and support local control. SB 122 gives local governments another tool to finance an infrastructure project to meet that community's water needs.
The Water Supply Act puts Georgia on the path to maintaining the water resources we need to keep up with a rapidly growing state.
The process outlined in the bill is similar to the public/private procurement process that has been successfully implemented by the Georgia Department of Transportation and will provide a new, viable option for financing as local governments and the state continue to face significant budget challenges.
The legislation aligns with Governor Nathan Deal's efforts to ensure that Georgia will be able to meet its long-term water needs.
The West Georgia Regional Water Authority is an example of local government empowered to meet the needs of its people. Created in 1988, the WGRWA is composed of the Commission Chairman or appointee of the commission and an appointee from the Water Authority of each member county. Carroll, Haralson, Paulding and Polk counties are named as members in this authority.
This authority is charged with the acquisition and construction of a regional water reservoir, securing the necessary funding and the operations of the system to distribute the water to its member counties.
Great needs mean great opportunities. The tools are available for innovative solutions. I urge you to stay active in issues dealing with water conservation and protection in Georgia. As always, I look forward to serving you and encourage your questions, concerns, and ideas as we move our state forward toward a prosperous future.