EPD’s Proposed Water Plan for Southwest Georgia

Dawson, GA |

For the first time in more than a decade, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is actively working on creating a plan to ease regulations put in place back in 2012 after one of the worst droughts the state has ever seen. That suspension, which halted any new withdrawal permits as well as any modifications to existing withdrawal permits on the Flint River Basin, was meant to protect water resources from being overconsumed.  However, that could all soon change after years of evaluation and data collection.

“The 2012 suspension was never intended to be a permanent suspension. We knew that we needed to use and manage the water resource effectively. So we’ve just been working over the last twelve years to get better water data, better metering data, to go through and evaluate that information. We’re also in a really unique position where we have funding from ARPA, that’s going to the Georgia Water Planning and Policy Center for the for the development of an incidental take permit and a habitat conservation plan. That all sounds like a lot of jargon, but really what it boils down to is we have some threatened, endangered mussels in the lower Flint basin, and this is a way for us to protect our existing water users and protect those mussels, while at the same time, stopping and trying to think through how do we want permitting to look moving forward,” says Ania Truszczynski, Chief of the EPD Watershed Protection Branch

The proposed modifications are contingent upon two main factors: additional capacity being identified and the protection of water and those already permitted to use it, and if those criteria are met, new permits would be under drought restrictions that users would need to comply with to ensure proper management.

“When times are good, when times are normal, even when times are a little bit dry, you can irrigate just as anyone normally would, but when we get into a really significant drought, the kinds of things you saw in 2007, in 2011, restrictions can be put in place and that person would not be able to withdraw from the Floridan aquifer anymore to make sure that we were not using too much of that water resource. The second thing that we’re talking about is making sure that we’ve got really good compliance options. So if folks do have a situation where they’re irrigating outside of their permitted acreage, that we have a good path to compliance, it’s going to get them where they need to be, where we can protect the water resource, but we’re really all working together,” says Truszczynski.

According to Murray Campbell, a farmer who has been a part of this discussion since the first moratorium was put in place in 1999, says this modification would be a great win for those like himself, who wouldn’t be able to farm without irrigation.

“We are so much further down the road in the science and knowing what’s going on and being able to predict what will happen with the modeling. We are on the verge of being able to protect the permits that we have, which is important, to correct some of the inaccuracies that we have in some of the permits and that we can then see where those areas are, where we can open up and have some more permits that may be under a drought restriction, under a significant situation, but we have come so much farther where we were twenty-five years ago it’s unbelievable, and we are making great progress and it’s going to be good for agriculture,” says Murray Campbell, Owner of Murray Campbell Farms.

The EPD hopes to have a final decision regarding the current suspension in November.

By: John Holcomb