Activists Proposing Water Policy Bill of Rights Unveiled Today 'Common Sense'

By Williams, Dave | The Florida Times Union, September 30, 2000 | Go to article overview

Activists Proposing Water Policy Bill of Rights Unveiled Today 'Common Sense'


Williams, Dave, The Florida Times Union


ATLANTA -- At first blush, they look like common sense. Clean water is vital to the public's health and well-being, water is a public resource and people have the right to use water on their properties as long as it doesn't interfere with others.

But the nine-point Water Bill of Rights being unveiled by a host of environmental groups today at an Atlanta rally and a news conference in Savannah is testimony that its supporters feel they've hit upon principles that need to be in writing and thrust upon state lawmakers.

"There's nothing being put forth here that's anything but common sense," said Deborah Sheppard, the Altamaha Riverkeeper who got a jump on today's festivities by hosting a meeting on the Water Bill of Rights yesterday in Darien.

"[But] there are numerous instances of laws and regulations on the books . . . that simply aren't being adhered to. If we're going to have an adequate water supply and have anything but poisoned water, we've got to get behind a citizen effort."

Sheppard said one of her group's major concerns is saltwater intrusion along the Georgia coast, which is hurting local fisheries. She met with local business leaders and environmental advocates yesterday at the docks on the Darien River, a place where barnacles have begun to grow, a sure sign that the water is getting saltier.

"We didn't used to have that here," she said. "It means the saltwater/freshwater interface, the area where shrimp reproduce, is moving upstream. Now, each of these organisms that has to return to saltwater has a longer commute."

Gov. Roy Barnes has pledged that water will be among his top priorities for the General Assembly session that begins in January. Water quality also is the focus of a task force of Atlanta-area political and business leaders that is due to release its recommendations next week.

Even with such commitments from political insiders, environmental groups must put pressure on lawmakers to make sure sound policies governing water supplies and water quality are enacted in Georgia, said Ben Brewton, chairman of the Coastal Environmental Organization of Georgia. …

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