Planning Regional Water Planning Councils

By Brant D. Keller, Ph.D.In the 2008 legislative session, four years after the passage of HB 237, the “Comprehensive Statewide Water Management Planning Act,” state lawmakers approved the framework for the Comprehensive Statewide Water Plan. As part of the plan, the state is currently divided into 10 Regional Water Planning Districts and the (existing) Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District.  

For the past three years, discussion has surrounded concepts of demand, supply and return management. Words like desalination, interbasin transfers, non-point source management, reuse and a host of other terms have dominated the conversation of elected officials, state agencies, environmentalists, water professionals and other concerned parties and stakeholders.  

This month, according to the plan schedule, these Regional Water Planning Districts are to be identified by boundaries. The councils governing the districts will be appointed by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House. The Governor will appoint 13 members and an alternate, the Lieutenant Governor will appoint six members and an alternate, and the Speaker of the House will appoint six members and an alternate. Each council must have four city elected officials and four county officials among its 25 members. 

The water management plan must represent the state’s economy, public health and natural systems. How this is interpreted will have enormous impact on agriculture, business – commercial and industrial – local government, non-profit organizations, trade associations, power producers and providers, homeowners and many more. Water management affects every citizen of Georgia. 

The next three years are critical, as the assessment of the resource and its allocation will produce long-term affects on the quality of life for Georgians. For that reason, it is critical to set aside politics aside in the appointments of council members and create a team of qualified members based on sound public policy. A balance of members must be established in order to establish synergy in the regions.  

Water resource allocations, assimilated capacities or efficiencies are not common household terms. The expertise of water professionals from local government and communities’ private utilities, as well as the input of the business community and agricultural community, is necessary on these regional water councils. The combined knowledge of individuals from these sectors can provide the perspective and balance so desperately needed to deliver the guidance for comprehensive management in each region. And a cooperative spirit among the regions is the foundation for a successful approach, for the state’s economy and environment.  

Time and again, this state and others have learned how the best set of policy tools and planning guidelines can be sidelined and undermined by self-interest. The state water plan is a road map for now and future interests of all Georgians. It is imperative to start on the right foot so that planning continues in the right direction.  

Mac Anderson, the founder of Simple Truths and Successories, maintains: “Success doesn’t happen by accident. It starts with an unwavering commitment to build a dedicated team who serves their boss … the customer.”  

How the councils are appointed can mean the success or failure of Georgia’s most precious resource – water. Policy must prevail over politics. And with sound science as the basis, the success or failure of this plan is more transparent and less likely to be glossed over with political platitudes. 

To learn more about the Comprehensive Statewide Water Management Plan, go to http://www.georgiawatercouncil.org/Files_PDF/water_plan_20080109.pdf. 

 

Brant D. Keller, Ph. D, director of Public Works and Utilities for the City of Griffin, wrote this commentary for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The Foundation is an independent think tank that proposes practical, market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.

© Georgia Public Policy Foundation (July 11, 2008). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and his affiliations are cited.

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