Watching the water flow - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Watching the water flow

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December 10, 2002

Dougherty County-- Water is the hot topic in Atlanta for the up-coming legislative session. How much of this precious commodity farmers use up will be debated.

Right now, metering agricultural wells is done on a volunteer basis. But, lawmakers will be deciding if keeping tabs on irrigation could be extended to every farmer.

"Let me see here, get everything turned on..." Farmer Byron Henderson's water is flowing, and every drop is accounted for with a University of Georgia metering system.

"The purpose was to see how much we were using how affected water table and they were surprised we are not using as much as they thought we would," said Geohydrologist Doug Wilson.

Scientists discovered that Dougherty County farmer Byron Henderson was using a lot less water irrigating his 1,200 acres of farmland then they estimated. "It's a way for the scientific community to know, right now we don't know we've got all kinds of estimates of water use based on the number of permits, we don't have anything on actual use," said Wilson.

"If you want to keep business private that's not so private when someone knows what you are doing," said Henderson, who knows there are farmers who worry about their privacy, although he's not one of them.

Geohydrologist Doug Wilson says Georgia is behind the curve on water data collection, and metering will provide the answers. "And then if it becomes necessary to sort out some allocation ie put out x number of inches or gallons or however they do it, it's based on real data as opposed to based on speculation."

But Wilson speculates that metering will not necessarily lead to water restrictions, although some farmers worry that will happen.

Right now, the amount of water used by industry and municipalities is closely measured. Agricultural water use is the only big business in Georgia that is not.

posted at 5:30PM by dave.miller@walb.com