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12/01/00 - Water requires statewide initiative


The Atlanta Journal

Friday- December 1, 2000
Water requires statewide initiative


Friday, December 1, 2000

IT'S AN INCREDIBLE balancing act that Georgia faces in handling its water quality and quantity issues, and it's one that cries out for the state Legislature to take the initiative. Various proposals would take different routes to the same end: a clean and abundant water supply.

The 37-member Clean Water Initiative task force, sponsored by regional business leaders, proposes a 16-county Metro Atlanta Water Planning District whose regulations would be enforced by the state Environmental Protection Division. That proposal is before Gov. Roy Barnes.

The Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association prefer a statewide water management strategy, "based on sound scientific data," although they have endorsed the Clean Water Initiative proposal.

A new study released by Research Atlanta, which examined other states' plans, also advocates a statewide plan in which local efforts must mesh with regional and state water strategies.

That's smart, because the metro area's water issues are a drop in the ocean:

Court-imposed deadlines are looming for the state EPD and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to come up with management plans --- total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs --- for the state's waterways under the federal Clean Water Act.

Negotiators for Georgia, Alabama and Florida are up against their fifth deadline extension, Dec. 30, in the dispute over how to share the waters of the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Flint-Chattahoochee river basins. Georgia has been reluctant to guarantee a minimum flow to its neighbors that could compromise our own economy and residents, and rightly so.

The EPD has persuaded the Legislature to pay farmers not to irrigate their crops in an effort to preserve the Flint River's flow during a drought. But we don't have a comprehensive drought management plan for the state.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases billions of gallons of water from our reservoir-lakes for uneconomical barge navigation, while millions of Georgians suffer water restrictions.

We're lambasted about the apparent poor quality of Georgia's waterways, yet often it's a result of questionable EPA standards. Gwinnett County, for example, says it can meet every EPA water standard but one: fecal coliform. It peaks after heavy rainfalls, essentially from non-point sources --- the contribution to the runoff of every cat, dog or goose in the general area of a creek or stream.

Fecal coliform bacteria are not harmful to humans; they are merely used as an indicator of other harmful pathogens, and scientists question using fecal coliform as a pollution indicator. But as long as our love affair with our pets continues, meeting the standard is about as realistic as doing 55 mph on I-75.

The EPD has urged the EPA in a letter: "It is imperative that USEPA conduct the necessary research to develop an indicator or test (to replace fecal coliform. . .) which can be used to correlate the potential for human illness associated with swimming in natural waters."

All this cries out for a coordinated, statewide response. Jim Kundell, a University of Georgia professor who led the Research Atlanta effort, believes a legislative study committee could be established next year and come back in the 2002 session with a comprehensive plan. That's a sensible suggestion. With so many fronts, a piecemeal plan is unlikely to succeed. There's a real possibility of further court intervention and economic consequences.

A Metro Atlanta Water Planning District is an idea whose time has come. But coordinating the input of myriad statewide interests, balancing the needs, weighing the economic impact, looking at the science and coming up with a comprehensive plan offering common-sense options must be undertaken with oversight from our elected officials.

And we have no doubt a Legislature that was able to tack $9.3 million in pork onto the state budget this year can find funding for the effort under the state Capitol's sofa cushions.


ACCG Ga Water Management Campaign

About the Georgia Water Management Campaign
7/26/2000 k. hullett

The Georgia Water Management Campaign has been established to enhance local governments’ ability to manage and protect water resources by translating water management policies into local government decision making capabilities, guidance and technical assistance. Through the Campaign efforts we hope to:

increase communication between local, state and federal governments, industry leaders, environmental organizations, academia and water professional associations; increase local governments’ commitment to the protection and management of water resources; and provide coordinated delivery of water management technical assistance to local governments throughout Georgia.

The Campaign is the result of a three-party contract between the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG). The Campaign is endorsed by the Georgia Municipal Association, Georgia Rural Water Association and Georgia Water and Pollution Control Association. The Local Government Policy Advisory Committee, which we co-chair, is composed of twenty-one elected and appointed officials, ten appointed by GMA, ten by ACCG and one joint appointment. This Board serves as ambassadors for the Campaign and provides overall guidance on how best to achieve the goals of capacity development and source water protection in Georgia.

As part of the efforts of the Campaign, a series of activities will be undertaken and documents and tools developed. This book is intended to provide the reader with an overview of how water is currently managed in Georgia as well as some of the issues that will affect the future management of water resources in Georgia.

Several outreach and awareness tools, such as public service announcements and videos, are being developed for use by local government officials to release to the local communications media. We are also developing a guidance document to help local governments identify, analyze, and implement comprehensive water management strategies as well as a local government executive training program to inform officials on issues such as drinking water capacity development and source water protection. For more information on the Georgia Water Management Campaign, please contact the program staff at 404/522-5022.

To enhance local governments’ ability to manage and protect water resources as a fundamental component of protecting public health, safety and welfare, by:

1. Increasing their technical, financial and managerial capability to provide safe and dependable drinking water (capacity development); and

2. Expanding their capability to develop and implement policies and programs designed to effectively protect water resources.

The Campaign promotes stakeholder involvement in developing and implementing effective strategies for water management. To accomplish its mission, the Campaign will: 1. Enhance leadership communication and build awareness, by:

Sponsoring an annual Georgia Water Resources Leadership Summit to provide a "bottom up" and "top down" understanding of issues affecting the management and protection of water resources in Georgia. Developing a shared vision for effectively managing and protecting water resources in Georgia. Developing communication and awareness tools, including PSAs and videos. Enhancing public and official awareness of local governments’ role in providing and protecting water resources. 2. Develop technical assistance and training programs, including:

Developing guidance and policies on establishing and maintaining local government comprehensive water management programs, including case studies. Developing local government executive training programs on such topics as source water protection. Developing model agreements and criteria for local government use in working with privately owned community water systems.

Georgia Water Management Campaign Board and Staff

Hon. Floyd Adams, Jr
Mayor, City of Savannah
P.O. Box 1027
Savannah, Georgia 31402
912/651-6444 (office)

Hon. Benjamin Hayward
Mitchell County Chairman
P.O. Box 572
Camilla, Georgia 31730
912/336-2000 (office)

Mr. John Bennett
City Manager - Rome
P.0. Box 1433
Rome, Georgia 30161-1433
706/236-4400 (office)

Hon. Ira Hicks
Peach County Chairman
P.O. Box 4546 FVSU
Fort Valley, Georgia 31030
912/825-2535 (office)

Hon. Joyce Blevins
McDuffie County Chairman
P.O. Box 28
Thomson, Georgia 30824
706/595-2100 (office)

Hon. Haines Hill (co-chair)
Mayor, City of Dahlonega
465 Riley Road
Dahlonega, Georgia 30533
706/864-6133 (office)

Hon. Leonard Burse, Jr.
Commissioner, City of Waycross
P.0. Drawer99
Waycross, Georgia 31502-0099
912/287-2900 (office)

Mr. Brant Keller
Public Works Director
P.O Box T
Griffin, Georgia 30224
770/229-6603 (office)

Mr. Al Crace
Athens-Clarke County Manager
P.0. Box 1868
Athens, Georgia 30603
706/613-302 0 (office)

Hon. Clair Muller
Council Member, City of Atlanta
55 Trinity Ave., SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30335
404/330-6051 (office)

Mr. Lamar Crosby
Efflngham County Administrator
P.O. Box 307
Springfield, Georgia 31329
912/754-2111 (office)

Hon. Wendell Dawson
Oconee County Chairman
P.O. Box 528
Watkinsville, Georgia 30677
706/769-5120 (office)

Mr. Charles Tyson
City Manager, Bainbridge
P.O. Box 158
Bainbridge, Georgia 31718
912/248-2000 (office)

Hon. Gerald Dewitt
Commissioner, City of Jesup
324 Dreamland Street
Jesup, Georgia 31545
912/427-1313 (office)

Hon. Dave Wills, Jr.
Webster County Chairman
Route 2, Box 199
Preston, Georgia 31824
912/828-5775 (office)

Mr. Billy Edwards
City Manager - Hinesville
115 E. M.L. King, Jr.
Hinesville, Georgia 31313
912/876-3564 (office)

Hon. Richard Colclough
Augusta-Richmond County Commissioner
3508 Monte Carlo Drive
Augusta, Georgia 30906
706/792-7073 (office)
706/793-8957 (home)
706/294-7421 (mobile)

Mr. David Hankerson
Cobb County Manager
100 Cherokee Street, Suite 300
Marietta, Georgia 30090
770/528-2612 (office)

Georgia Water Management Campaign
50 Hurt Plaza, Suite 1000
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
404/522-5022 (office)
404/525-2477 (fax)

W. Ross King
Program Director

A list of GWMC case studies:

Addressing Growth and Capacity Needs: City of Hampton and Henry County Water and Sewage Authority Contract Operation and Management (O&M): City of Hinesville Addressing Capacity Needs: The City of LaGrange Development of a County Utility and Acquisition of Private Systems: Lee County Utilities Authority Community Based Watershed Protection: Peavine Watershed Alliance Operation of Satellite Water Supply Systems: City of Savannah Multi-Jurisdictional Water Commission & Innovative Financing: City of Thomson/McDuffie County Intergovernmental Cooperation & Incorporation of Private Systems: City of Toccoa/Stephens County Community Leader-Driven Watershed Protection: Upper Etowah River Alliance Building A Regional Approach: Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority Local Coordinator Driven Watershed Management: Yahoola Creek Watershed Project Regional Wholesale Water Authority: Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority Municipal Utility Watershed Management: Columbus Water Works Joint Rate Differential Study: City of Gainesville and Hall County Stormwater Management Utility: City of Griffin Watershed Protection Strategy of a Water Supply and Wastewater Authority: Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority



Clean Water Initiative A Local Success
By Jim Calvin, GMA Executive Director (November, 2000)

At first glance, it might appear that local governments took it on the chin in a proposal for regional water management that was recently unveiled by a group of civic leaders. If the governor and the General Assembly accept the proposals of the Metro Atlanta Clean Water Initiative Task Force, and create a 16-county water planning district in the metro region, then the act-alone autonomy and discretion of local governments will have seemingly been diminished.

The CWI Task Force's proposal has even been billed as "Big Bidness" versus "Local Gummint," with local government, of course, getting the short end of the stick.

There's just one thing wrong with this scenario: It's dead wrong. Local governments, working through GMA, ACCG and ARC have been enthusiastic backers of a regional, "team" approach to managing our crucial water resources.

In fact, the main elements in the CWI Task Force plan were hatched by representatives of local government. What emerged from the CWI Task Force addresses most of the goals set forth by the joint GMA-ACCG Water Resources Task Force, as well as the actual proposals proffered by the GMA-ACCG-ARC coalition. The proposals call for regional planning, a $ billion bond fund, a coordinated information database and a review of existing land-use plans and ordinances to develop regionally consistent policies.

So instead of fighting the plan to preserve "local autonomy" and "turf," most local governments are in favor of banding together to address our region's water-quality needs. Furthermore, while the plan recognizes the authority vested in local governments and the experience they have in managing water issues by providing them majority representation, it also provides for meaningful input through significant citizen representation.

Of course, not every aspect of the CWI proposal meets with absolute local approval, and not every official endorses every detail of this plan. But that is also true of environmentalists, businesspeople and others who participated on the task force. No single group or individual walked away with everything they wanted. The proposal that emerged represented some give and take on the part of all.

But in the main, the potential benefits coming out of this effort far outweigh the minor differences and clarifications supporters will have an opportunity to address as the recommendations move forward. We think it's a responsible approach to water management for metro Atlanta. And its emphasis on regional planning and coordination represents a model that can be duplicated in watersheds across the state.

Our support for this plan shows that Georgia's cities have the vision to see beyond local, parochial interests. It shows they're in favor of working closely with the state, and with neighboring cities and counties, to help improve and conserve one of our most precious resources. At bottom, we're for improving the quality of water for citizens in metro Atlanta and around the state. And that goal will win out every time over local "autonomy."