The Georgia Department of Natural Resources board today gave the go-ahead to build an experimental aquifer water storage and recovery system in Baker County.
It's intended to improve flow in streams off the Flint River and protect endangered species.
But the Georgia Water Coalition and many landowners along the Flint River oppose the project.
Basically the state will drill about a 1,500 foot deep well system, to see if they can take water from the Floridan Aquifer and send it to deeper aquifers. Then when needed during droughts, water will be pumped from those deeper aquifers to the streams.
Many Georgians are bitterly opposed to the project. Robin Singletary of Covey Rise Plantation loves the Flint River running along his property, and says he is an unlikely tree hugging environmentalist.
"When you start coming after the Flint River, you are coming after my tree, and I become a tree hugger," Singletary said.
Singletary is a Flint Riverkeeper board member, one of the 196 organizations opposed to the state's experimental aquifer storage and recovery system. They think it will cost too much and could disturb the aquifers.
"It seems a little out of place to spend the money that it will take to experiment with this, on it. And not take this money and spend it on things that we know will save water," Singletary said.
The Southwest Georgia Regional Commission has been put in charge of the project, which has a budget of $4.6 million. Executive Director Robert McDaniel says he understands people's concerns.
"They are also skeptical of it, and I can understand that," McDaniel said. "But I think that with the protocols that are there now in place, there is really nothing to be afraid of. It's going to give us some good science to look at it. To determine going forward if this is a viable augmentation system to be used in our streams and rivers."
State legislators are concerned with furnishing enough water to Atlanta, protecting endangered species, and court battles to continue the flow of water to Florida and Alabama.
Singletary and the Georgia Water Coalition members worry this program could be the first step to taking water away from South Georgia agriculture and limiting property rights.
"Just leave the water in the river, like it's supposed to be. Let's better manage our uses, and we'll have enough water," Singletary said.
State officials say this experiment is needed for Georgia's future.
"I'd like to see what it does. What it costs per gallon. Is it feasible and does it work?" McDaniel said.
Georgia Water Coalition officials ask what if it disrupts the aquifer system we all depend on; that's too high a cost for an experiment.
McDaniel says the experimental project is scheduled for 30 months, to test the well system's seasonal cycles. If it is considered a success, there are proposed state projects to install as many as 150 wells at a cost of more than $900 million.
The Georgia Water Coalition is made up of 196 organizations representing more than 250,000 Georgians.