SAVANNAH — It didn’t even take 45 minutes for the public comments to be offered at Wednesday night’s public meeting on the statewide water management plan.
The meeting at the Armstrong Center drew about 50 people. It was one of 12 being held across the state this week. Another one was held Monday in Statesboro that was, by all indications, even more sparsely attended.
What you got Wednesday was representatives from different groups, all who have a stake in water quantity and quality. And one thing was obvious — they didn’t want north Georgia to get its hands on south Georgia’s water.
The Georgia Wildlife Federation wants to make sure there is enough freshwater in the streams to sustain fish populations. The GWF’s Sarah Barmeyer said the current draft plan contains “risky management policies.”
And as the state’s largest city and its ever-widening circle of population and growth face a grim water situation —the levels of lakes Allatoona and Lanier have dropped significantly and all outdoor lawn watering has been banned.
“Metro Atlanta needs to do more,” Barmeyer said. “Piping water from the Savannah River is not a realistic option.”
Barmeyer and Wesley Wolf of the Center for a Sustainable Coast also questioned if the plan is going to be properly funded. Like Barmeyer, Wolf posed a concern about stream flow being a part of the plan. Like Barmeyer, Wolf warned that south Georgia’s water should be south Georgia’s water — the plan should prohibit policies “that reallocated water from one river basin to another.”
George Oelschig said he remembered that a company put in such a big well in the 1930s that it dried up all the artesian wells. Former state senator Ed Zipperer said that since the Durango paper mill in St. Mary’s closed, artesian wells are springing back up down there. He said when he was growing up, there was an artesian well on the family farm that could supply water to the second floor of his house without the need of a pump.
There were calls for sustainable energy and the point of how much water it takes to produce a gallon of ethanol — a Wall Street Journal piece said it takes as much as 1,700 gallons of water to make one gallon of ethanol. In the words of one of the speakers Wednesday night, “This corn liquor they’re going to use for fuel, is that good use of our water. All it does is use more water.”
Kenneth Turner, a member of the Georgia Municipal Association, also wants to see the plan be adequately funded and to have all the necessary data in hand before it’s finished.
But the plan is supposed to be in the hands of the Georgia legislators on the first day of the 2008 General Assembly. The comments made this week and that also can be submitted online will be included in the revision of this draft, which is the second draft, for a third draft that will be presented across the state next month.
What’s the upshot of all this? It’s that time is running out to make your support or concerns about a water plan that very well could be put in place from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light in a few months. It’s important that the state, or somebody, come up with a water management plan and soon.
Atlanta’s woes aside — and they are massive and their leaky pipes require billions of dollars of work — we’ll need water here, and we need it now, too. There are places where you can wade across the Ogeechee River.
Half the county lies within the “red zone,” and if Springfield could move its well just a few hundred yards to the north, it would be out of the red zone, to where water withdrawal is not restricted. We’ll need water to maintain and sustain what’s here now, never mind what is coming in the future.
If you have a chance, visit the Web site www.georgiawatercouncil.org. Take a look at the plan — you may need to clear a few quiet hours to do it. Take the time to make comments, if you want. Otherwise, Effingham’s needs, today and tomorrow, may get ignored.