Governor introduces Georgia Water Stewardship Act

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Atlanta—Gov. Sonny Perdue announced a comprehensive proposal that will encourage water conservation, reduce wasteful loss and incentivize innovation in both increasing water supply and lessening demand.

Many of the proposals in the Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010 are based on recommendations from the Governor’s Water Contingency Task Force, which met in the fall and winter and featured more than 80 business, government and environmental leaders from around Georgia.

“This bill represents the hard work and effort of the water task force and provides a road map towards being better stewards of our limited natural resources,” Perdue said in a news release. “We have made great strides in creating a culture of conservation in Georgia, and these measures will continue our commitment to protect our state for future generations.”

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The bill will be introduced in both the House and the Senate and will be sponsored by Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee Chairman Ross Tolleson and House Natural Resources and Environment Committee Chair Lynn Smith.

“During the past two years Georgia has shown a great willingness and ability to conserve water and these proposals build on that foundation,” Sen. Tolleson said.

“Water is our most precious natural resource, and this legislation gives us the tools we need to prepare for future growth and future droughts,” Rep. Smith added.

Beginning in July 2012, the legislation requires efficient water fixtures in all new residential and commercial construction statewide as well as the installation of efficient cooling towers in new industrial construction. Also, for all new residential and commercial multi-unit projects, the bill will require sub-metering so that each unit will receive consumption reports and have incentive to practice conservation measures.

The legislation also instructs eight different state agencies to look at local government and water provider grant and loan programs to develop incentive criteria that would encourage retrofit programs on existing construction.

For example, a community could receive an interest rate discount for a Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) loan or be able to apply for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) annually instead of every two years. These incentive programs could range from retrofitting water fixtures to installing drought resistant landscapes to using grey water and implementing conservation pricing.

These incentives will also apply to water supply development as well, such as interconnections, new reservoirs, reservoir expansion and others.

The act will also create a joint House and Senate committee on water supply that will look at the task force’s work on additional contingency supply options.

The bill also tasks the Georgia Environmental Protection Division with setting standards for water loss and leak detection for all medium and large public water systems. These systems serve 91 percent of Georgia’s water customers. Because data on water loss is currently not comparable from system to system, setting the standards will allow the state to assist water providers by identifying where the biggest losses are occurring.

The final piece of the legislation extends the voluntary agriculture monitoring program to include surface water withdrawals.

Farmers around the state have voluntarily agreed to have groundwater withdrawals monitored and the results have disproven many negative assumptions about agricultural water use.

Extending this program to surface water withdrawals, from our rivers, streams and lakes, will continue to provide the state critical data that informs not only water negotiations with our neighbors but also our water inventory of sources and uses that Georgia’s Regional Water Councils are currently developing.