By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Water councils are forming
Placeholder Image

When I was elected mayor of the city of Pooler in 1996, my first challenge turned out to the toughest of my 8 1/2 years of service — how to provide water for future growth.

With an agenda of growth through aggressive annexation in the then-undeveloped areas of west Chatham County, landowners and developers were unwilling to listen to our offers of bringing them into our city without the assurance of the availability of water. As fate would have it, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division halted all increases in groundwater withdrawal permits early in 1996 because of saltwater intrusion in the Floridian aquifer. Fortunately, after lengthy and passionate protests, we were able to obtain treated surface water for our expansion and continue with our growth.  

As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, Georgia has faced the same dilemma in recent years. Population growth and economic prosperity have caused our water use to expand rapidly, growing by more than 20 percent between 1990 and 2000. Over 6.5 billion gallons of water are withdrawn from surface waters and aquifers in our state each day.  

While Georgia has abundant water resources, with 14 major river systems and multiple groundwater aquifer systems, proper management of these resources is essential in order to assure future population growth and economic prosperity.

In 2004, recognizing the need for a water supply management plan in our state, the legislature passed a bill charging EPD and the Georgia Water Resources Council to develop a comprehensive statewide water plan and submit it to the legislature in January 2008.  After much work, including extensive public involvement throughout the entire state with all major water users, the plan was presented to the legislature and subsequently adopted.

It is important to note that the plan is not intended to address the current drought conditions but instead to guide long-term planning and lay out a framework for regional planning.

The plan calls for four major steps to be conducted in a process that is intended to be an on-going cycle rather than a one-time plan.  

The first step calls for EPD to complete a set of water resource assessments for each region in the state, including water availability as well as the amount of wastewater capacity each region can handle before water quality begins to degrade.

The second major step will be to complete forecasts of future economic and population growth for Georgia. This will be the responsibility of regional water planning councils using regional population and employment estimates to forecast need for water and wastewater capacity within each planning region.

Thirdly, a set of regional water plans will identify the management practices proposed by local governments to ensure that their regional water and wastewater needs are met.  

Finally, once the plans are adopted, they will be implemented by the water users in the water planning regions and EPD will make permitting decisions based on the plans.

Earlier this month, EPD announced the finalization of the boundaries for the 11 regional water planning regions, including the existing metro Atlanta water planning district. These boundaries divide the regions by counties with most of the regions covering several river basins.  The Coastal Georgia region will have nine counties covering five river basins.  

Last week, EPD called for nominations for members of the regional water planning councils that will play such an important role in the planning process. Each region will have 25 members who must be residents of the water planning region. The governor will appoint 13 members with at least two being a mayor or city council member and two being elected officials of a county governing authority.  The lieutenant governor and speaker of the House will each have six appointments with at least one being a mayor or city council member and 1 being an elected official of a county governing authority.

Council membership nomination forms are available at and will be accepted through Aug. 29.  

The statewide water plan will ensure that Georgia’s future water needs for economic prosperity are met while managing our most precious resource — water. Members of the regional water planning councils will play a vital role in this process — now is the time to make certain every region is well represented.