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Private Water?

February 15, 2010

While most of the water policy focus thus far in the legislative session has been on Gov. Perdue’s conservation-centered bill (the Georgia Water Stewardship Act), there are some other bills floating out there (pun intended) that could have a very big impact on the “waterscape” if they were to gain traction. Among them is a bill sponsored by state Sen. Chip Pearson of Dawsonville that would largely privatize the business of building reservoirs, and Heather Duncan at the Macon Telegraph did an in-depth story on that bill on Sunday. Duncan’s focus on the Pearson bill (SB 321) is appropriate, since it would drastically change the shape of things in Georgia if it were to gain passage. Whether Pearson’s bill will see much movement in the Senate is another question entirely, but the Water Wire will keep you posted if so.

For the moment, here are some of the most troublesome aspects of SB 321 as written: For one thing, it would shift the permitting process from the state Environmental Protection Division to the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, limiting public access to most of the process. Also, the bill would deliberately remove environmental safeguards from the development of new reservoirs, while also declining to define just what a “water supply reservoir” is – how many homes it serves, for example. In the big picture, in addition to privatizing a public resource (water), this kind of haphazard lake-building program would weaken Georgia’s position in the tri-state water war with Alabama and Florida, given the possibility that some of these under-regulated impoundments could be placed on streams flowing into those states. It’s a problem bill on many counts.

-Ben Emanuel

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