Last month, the Georgia Water Coalition released another one of their “Georgia’s Dirty Dozen Rivers” publications. You would think with such a frightening title the publication would be a call to action to address twelve rivers in our state in need of cleaning up; something everyone should support. Instead the Coalition spent the overwhelming majority of their publication making political statements like calling “attention to state policies that harm our rivers and waste our tax dollars.” To make matters worse, they are very misleading in how they negatively portray the Georgia legislature, Governor Deal and our municipal and county water systems throughout Georgia as being poor stewards of Georgia’s water resources.
For instance, on numerous occasions, the Coalition makes brash, unsubstantiated statements like, “state and local leaders continually fail to embrace water conservation as a reasonable alternative for meeting future water demands.” There is absolutely no basis in fact for this and other statements in their publication.
Speaking of facts, in 2001 the Georgia legislature established the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, in 2004 the Georgia Comprehensive State-wide Water Management Plan, in 2008 the Georgia Water Supply Act, and in 2010 the Water System Interconnection, Redundancy and Reliability Act. If that isn’t paying attention to future water demand policies then what is?
More specifically, the Water Supply and Water Conservation Management Plan for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District states the metro Atlanta region is the “only major metropolitan area in the country with more than 100 jurisdictions that is implementing such a comprehensive long-term water conservation program that is required and enforced.” If implementing an enforceable comprehensive long-term water conservation program isn’t embracing water conservation then what is?
A survey of 30 metropolitan regions show that metro Atlanta’s per capita water use is lower than all but three of the 30 regions surveyed. The Metropolitan Water District Metrics Report also shows that per capita water use is down 14 percent since 2001 even while the population of the 15-county metro region increased by one million people. If that isn’t practicing water conservation then what is it?
The "Dirty Dozen" publication also goes so far as to question the population projections used in the study to support construction of the Paulding County Richland Creek reservoir. While projected populations are always debatable, the undisputed fact is Paulding County will continue to grow. There will clearly be a need for future water resources in Paulding County. And nowhere in the “Dirty Dozen” publication does it ever say Richland Creek is “dirty”.
Of greater concern to Paulding County residents should be the proposition by this organization that Paulding residents should only have access to future water from Lake Alatoona and the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority; two entities Paulding residents have no control over.
The public should have control over their future water use, whether they are in Paulding, Fulton or any other county in the region. Surrendering control of access to water to another county, authority, or state is not something any local leaders should accept when access to water resources is a viable option. The Richland Creek Reservoir is a viable option to provide a dependable source of water for Paulding County residents and that is why the state is assisting with financing the construction of the reservoir.
Water management plans note that Georgia normally enjoys abundant rainfall, ranging from more than 70 inches per year in the mountains to approximately 46 inches per year in the Piedmont region, and boasts abundant surface and ground water resources. But even with this amount of rainfall, the “state still faces both short- and long-term water supply challenges.” Knowing this, the state appropriately continues to plan to meet future demands for water supply.
While this “Dirty Dozen” publication would have the public believe state and local leaders aren’t taking water supply and water conservation measures seriously, the facts don’t bear out their assertions. Only when environmental groups like the Georgia Water Coalition work collaboratively with other clean water advocates like the Georgia Water Alliance, state and local elected officials and Georgia citizens, will metro Atlanta be able to meet our future water supply needs through investments in both water conservation and increased water supply.
Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta