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CRBI reacts to Governor's Water Conservation Bill

Article Published in Rome News-Tribune

Bill aims to save water: House and Senate leaders expected to introduce Water Stewardship Act today

by Diane Wagner
Mandatory low-flow fixtures and separate meters for individual apartments are key elements in a package of water conservation measures Gov. Sonny Perdue hopes to push through the Legislature.

Perdue’s Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010 is expected to be introduced in both the House and the Senate today.

Many of its proposals are based on

recommendations from a task force formed after a federal court ruled the Atlanta region has no rights to drinking water from Lake Lanier. The state has until 2012 to halt withdrawals or resolve its long-running water dispute with Alabama and Florida.

Click to see the task force’s final report.

“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 press release.

But Joe Cook, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, said the Georgia Water Coalition wants more details before pronouncing an opinion.

“It’s good that water conservation is taking the stage at such a high level of government,” he said. “But we’ll have to see what the bill looks like before we know if it’s as aggressive as it needs to be.”

The legislation would require efficient water fixtures in all new residential and commercial construction, beginning in 2012. Efficient cooling towers in new industrial buildings and sub-meters in new multi-unit projects also would be mandatory.

At $1,800 per water meter in the city of Rome, opposition to that provision is likely to surface from developers. Many apartment and office buildings get by now on a single meter, with water service included in the tenants’ monthly rent.

Builder Tom Bennett, a former Floyd County commissioner, said he can see both sides of the issue.

“That’s a cost that has to be recovered by the landlord, so the rent would be higher,” he said. “But it could have some conservation benefits. If you’re paying for something (directly), you might be more judicious in your use.”

The bill also directs eight state agencies to come up with grant and loan incentives to encourage retrofitting existing structures and the creation of new water supplies.

Rome City Manager John Bennett served on the governor’s task force and chairs the Coosa-North Georgia Regional Water Council.

He said the city could be affected by another of the bill’s provisions — one that would set statewide standards for water loss and leak protection for all medium and large public water systems. With about 20,000 customers, Rome is a medium system.

“It depends on where they set (the limit),” he said. “The older your system, the more leaks you’re going to have. Cities like Savannah, Atlanta and Rome are in a different situation than newer ones like Peachtree City.”

Bennett also said the water-savings in the proposed legislation won’t come close to offsetting the loss of Lake Lanier.

“But it does indicate the state is serious about conserving what it has,” he said.

Cook said the Georgia Water Coalition, a consortium of 174 environmental and civic groups, also is calling for legislation regulating transfers of water out of one river basin for use in another.

“There is a conception that we have prohibitions against it, but we don’t,” he said. “There are few protections for communities downstream.”

More than 1,400 people have already signed an online petition at www.nowatergrabs.com that urges the governor and lawmakers to enact stricter controls, Cook said.
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