Chattahoochee Riverkeeper: State’s reservoir plan dismisses conservation measures, overstates future demand
By David Pendered
The new report on water resource management from Chattahoochee Riverkeeper presses the point that the state could get a bigger bang for its buck with conservation than it will from its plan to build reservoirs.
As Riverkeeper promised in July, the report provides specific recommendations to reduce the region’s water footprint through a combination of approaches. The report presents three suggestions for the state to implement – none of them involving the construction of water reservoirs, which is a mainstay of the state’s approach to meeting the region’s reported needs for future water resources.
The report also contends that the region’s water needs have been vastly overstated by the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District. For example, the report suggests the region won’t add 1.9 million jobs and 2.7 million residents by 2035, as forecast by planners in 2009.
Here are the three suggestions for the state that are outlined in the executive summary of the new report: “Filling the Water Gap: Conservation Successes and Missed Opportunities in Metro Atlanta.” In addition, the report has two suggestions for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District.
For the state:
- The state should provide more grants and zero-interest loans to support local government efforts to repair leaks, retrofit old buildings with new plumbing fixtures, explore rainwater harvesting and reuse as options for reducing outdoor water demand, encourage more use of green infrastructure, and support other innovative water conservation projects.
- The state should adopt legislation to expedite inventory replacement of low- efficiency appliances (clothes washers, dishwashers) with efficient models and fund rebates for the purchase of water- and energy-efficient appliances.
- The state should require and set minimum standards for landscaping and irrigation certification to reduce outdoor water waste.
For the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District:
- During the mandated 2014 update of the region’s water plan, the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District should require all local governments within its jurisdiction to adopt those conservation programs implemented successfully at the local level including retrofit on reconnect requirements, low income assistance for leak repairs and retrofits, multi-family toilet rebates, and conservation pricing for the commercial sector.
- Importantly, the Metro District must commit to reassessing future water demands based on the latest U.S. Census data, drought information, water conservation efforts, and employment outlook.
The report states: “These measures are cheaper and more sustainable than the costly and destructive options proposed by state leaders for meeting our future water supply needs.”
The report comes at a time Georgia is proceeding with an approach that relies on new reservoirs to be built through public-private partnerships. These partnerships would be similar to those the state plans to create with private industry to complete road construction programs the state desires, but can’t afford to pay for on its own.
The year, Gov. Nathan Deal and the state Legislature agreed to provide almost $46 million in new debt to further the planning and construction of water reservoirs, facilities and systems.
The Department of Community Affairs was authorized to sell $25 million in 20-year bonds for reservoirs. The annual payment will be $2.14 million.
The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority was authorized to sell $20.75 million in 20-year bonds for “Water Supply and Reservoir Construction Loan Program, statewide.” The annual payment will be $1.776 million.
These new debt authorizations put some muscle into the public-private partnership program the state created in 2011. Deal signed Senate Bill 122, which authorized the creation of public-private partnerships for water resource programs.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce promoted the bill’s passage.