For Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) and others it is about the future of Georgia’s water. The drought and the accompanying water restrictions are over, but for much of metro Atlanta, the real danger is just over the horizon. Smith’s House Bill 1094 on water conservation — supported by Ramsey — passed 166-5 last week in the House and 52-0 in the Senate.
The bill contains a number of measures that, before the extended drought earlier this decade, might have seemed austere. But today, outside irrigating between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. (this will not apply to irrigating personal food gardens) or requiring high efficiency plumbing (after mid-2012) don’t seem so far-fetched to many in Georgia.
”The legislation is the product of months of work by a diverse group of stakeholders in Georgia’s water resources and will give Governor Perdue and our state water negotiators an additional tool they can use in negotiations with Florida and Alabama and in future court filings, if necessary,” Ramsey said in his legislative update in today’s issue.
Ramsey on Tuesday said the impetus for the bill began with the ruling by a federal judge that gives metro Atlanta three years to stop draining Lake Lanier water for human consumption.
“If Lanier is cut off, it will be a disaster for Atlanta. So this gives us another tool and in three years we can tell the judge we haven’t been sitting on our hands,” Ramsey said. “It’s a good bill and good policy that promotes water conversation. And we had a lot of help from the governor’s water task force.”
HB 1094 says the General Assembly recognizes the imminent need to create a culture of water conservation in Georgia and the need to plan for water supply enhancement during times of extreme drought conditions and other emergencies.
The bill provides for a phased-in process of annual water loss audits based on International Water Association standards. The bill also provides for the development of a technical assistance program to provide guidance to public water systems for water loss detection programs.
By Jan. 1, 2012, public water systems serving at least 10,000 individuals will have conducted a water loss audit pursuant to the minimum standards and best practices adopted by the Board of Natural Resources. A year later, all other public water systems will have conducted a water loss audit.
“This (federal ruling) forced us as policymakers to look at what we can do protect our water and the region’s viability,” Ramsey said. “This was a broad-based group of people from areas like farming, environmentalists and business. And some didn’t trust each other.”