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Task Force Focused on Statewide Water Needs

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Editorial from the Governor's Office
By John Brock and Tim Lowe

Water is a finite resource. It is critical to our environment, our quality of life and our economic success.

The limited availability of water is why Georgia has been in negotiations with Alabama and Florida for nearly twenty years. And it was the impetus for the passage of a statewide water management plan last year.

While our state’s leaders have been rightly focused on addressing Georgia’s long-term water needs, a recent federal judge’s ruling has created the need for more immediate action. U. S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that in July 2012, absent Congressional or other action, Lake Lanier will no longer be a viable source of water for the 3.5 million Georgians who depend on it today.

Should this ruling go into effect, we will be faced with a tremendous water shortage that could jeopardize our state’s future.

Governor Perdue has responded to this decision with a multi-pronged strategy that includes continued negotiations with Alabama and Florida, seeking Congressional assistance and a legal appeal. While he is hopeful that these strategies will be successful, the Governor has also created a Water Contingency Task Force to focus on the acute need created should the ruling stand.

This diverse, statewide task force, made up of more than 80 business, government and conservation leaders, began its work last month. Assisted by a technical team comprised of some of Georgia’s top engineers and water experts, it will spend the next few weeks researching, analyzing and ultimately prioritizing a list of recommendations for Governor Perdue and the General Assembly to consider.

Feasibility, cost and overall impact on Georgia’s environment and water supply will be critical factors, as will how various recommendations will work within the state’s current water plan.

At its first meeting last month, the task force established three areas of focus – enhancing current conservation efforts, increasing the state’s ability to capture rain and ground water, and reviewing current control and management policies.

Any and all options under these three categories will be examined between now and when the task force makes its final report. The public is invited to send recommendations to info@gawatertaskforce.com for consideration as the task force works towards identifying possible solutions.

Given the 34 percent projected gap between permitted withdrawal and projected demand should the ruling go to into effect, it will likely take a broad combination of ideas to address this potentially acute need. Some may be relatively simple to implement, others may require more of a sacrifice.

We are confident, though, that this task force will be able to provide Governor Perdue, members of the General Assembly and the citizens of our state with the tools we need to meet our future water needs while protecting both our economy and our environment.

John Brock is Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises and Tim Lowe is President of Lowe Engineers