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Water conservation bill moving forward

Legislation that would require various state departments to develop water conservation incentives and to order new construction to install high-efficiency plumbing fixtures is moving forward in the Georgia General Assembly.

With the legislation, the General Assembly recognizes the imminent need to create a culture of water conservation, which is particularly important as the state enters into more negotiations among Florida and Alabama over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted 166-5 in favor of its bill, HB 1094, and the Senate voted 52-0 in favor of its bill, SB 370.

“This legislation promotes water conservation in Georgia and shows our neighbors that we are serious about being good stewards of our natural resources,” Gov. Sonny Perdue said in a news release.

Sen. John Bulloch, who co-sponsored the Senate version, said Tuesday that the legislation addresses some very important points.

“This is really a good piece of legislation,” said Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee.

Among the highlights of the bill are the establishments of three categories of farm use ground-water and surface-water withdrawal permits: Active, inactive and unused permits.

Bulloch said what these provisions of the proposed law do is get a more accurate, truer picture of exactly what each permitted well is withdrawing from the state’s water inventory.

Beginning in 1988, many of the state’s wells were permitted, but some of those permits didn’t have active irrigation systems on them. Bulloch said the legislation attempts to whittle down the discrepancy of the number of permits that exists only in paper and the number of permits that actually are active or are in stages to become active.

“We are trying to get a better handle on it,” Bulloch said.

The legislation also attempts to regulate new construction.

The bills require all new multi-unit residential, retail and light industrial buildings permitted on or after July 1, 2012, to have submetering.

It also would require the installation of high-efficiency plumbing fixtures in all new construction permitted on or after July 1, 2012.

Bulloch said the legislation also clarifies some of the water restrictions that may be imposed by the state or other political subdivisions during times of drought.

A couple of years ago when the state was experiencing a significant drought, the water restriction requirements were very stringent, some saying to the point of being unreasonable. However, Bulloch said the legislation provides protection to nursery and landscape interests that lost money when they couldn’t water new plantings.

Bulloch said agriculture and conservation interests are protected as well.

As for the local legislation relating to the selection, service and power of the Decatur County Board of Commissioners and its chairman, Bulloch said he hasn’t heard any opposition of the bill, HB 1281, and he said he will vote in favor of it later this week.

The House of Representatives approved the bill last week. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Gene Maddox, R-Cairo.