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Catching Up with the News

March 16, 2010

A busy week or so in Georgia water news? Um, yeah.

Last Tuesday saw the River Basin Protection Act of 2010 dropped into the legislative hopper in both the House and Senate, with broad bipartisan support and a hefty number of sponsors signed on. This proposed legislation provides for better regulation (but not prohibition) of interbasin transfers of water – good ol’ IBTs, in acronym-speak. See stories in the Savannah Morning News, Rome News-Tribune, Albany Herald and AJC, among others that have run throughout the week and weekend.

Then Wednesday brought the nearly unanimous passage in both the House and Senate of Gov. Perdue’s Georgia Water Stewardship Act, the package of conservation and efficiency-oriented measures that seems to be making headlines more for its bargaining-chip role in the tri-state water war than for the needed reductions it will make in water demand. Either way, the bill is a very important step forward. See articles in the AJC and the Chattanooga Times-Free Press (with helpful breakout box on the bill’s provisions), plus various versions of an AP report that ran in Georgia papers and in Birmingham but also spread very far and wide across the net-media-sphere. (A weekend AP story, meanwhile, ran in a lot of Florida papers and a couple in Georgia, thanks to its politically titillating angle that Gov. Perdue is lending a little help to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s U.S. Senate campaign as part of the give-and-take of the water war….) Expect Perdue’s signature on the Water Stewardship Act once each chamber has passed the other chamber’s version of the bill, which shouldn’t be a big problem.

One more note on a relatively minor news item from the end of last week that deserves special notice: the Gwinnett Daily Post reports on that county’s great success with a toilet retrofit rebate program run out of the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District. The Daily Post article and this county press release make clear that the water savings achieved with the program have been big. In fact, the numbers are very much on the order of the major savings which the Georgia Water Coalition has been saying that water efficiency can achieve. In other words, spread across multiple counties, it’s absolutely true that efficiency can play a serious role in securing water supply for metro Atlanta in the wake of the Magnuson ruling (despite what many politicians have been saying).

The news also brings to mind this January blurb about Gwinnett in the AJC. It seems obvious now that some of the water savings noted then were probably due to the toilet retrofits, and this drives home the point that water efficiency efforts always secure lasting, permanent reductions in water demand in ways that behavioral water conservation – important as it is – rarely matches.

To sum up: Water efficiency wins!

-Ben Emanuel

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