Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Panel Wants to Block Water Grab Atlanta's Growth Increases Pressure

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Panel Wants to Block Water Grab Atlanta's Growth Increases Pressure

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Williams, Times-Union staff writer

MACON -- Anxious to keep the fast-growing Atlanta area from siphoning off water from other parts of Georgia, a study committee recommended yesterday that so-called "inter-basin transfers'' be limited to adjacent counties.

"There have been fears for years that metro Atlanta would come down and try to get South Georgia's water,'' said Rep. Bob Hanner, D-Parrott, co-chairman of the panel, created last year to lay the foundation for a statewide comprehensive water management plan.

"We're saying that's not going to be an option.''

The stand on inter-basin transfers was among a series of recommendations the committee approved during two days of meetings in Macon. The panel also suggested several new restrictions on agricultural water use, including requiring farmers to install meters at their irrigation wells.

The recommendations will be crafted into a final report to the General Assembly to be taken up by the panel at its final meeting next month.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently denied a request by Atlanta-area officials to increase withdrawals from Lake Lanier, the region's chief water source. Water experts expect the lake and Chattahoochee River to be tapped out in about 30 years, if not sooner, forcing water planners to look for other sources.

Inter-basin transfers, the siphoning of water from one river basin to another, already are occurring in Georgia, but the practice is limited primarily to the Atlanta region.

The issue came to the forefront last year when opposition from non-Atlanta lawmakers threatened to scuttle a bill creating a regional water-planning district for 16 metro counties. The measure's sponsors agreed to a compromise prohibiting the new district from either studying or pursuing inter-basin transfers from outside the Atlanta region into the metro area.

Now, the study committee wants to take it further by prohibiting transfers of water that cross more than two adjacent counties.

"We don't want water going halfway across the state to another basin,'' said committee member Harold Reheis, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, [EPD] who proposed the limit. …

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