Water worries

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Gov. Sonny Perdue, speaking in a hangar at Daniel Field on Wednesday, assured Augustans that they have nothing to fear over interbasin transfers from the Savannah River Basin.

It certainly was what Augustans wanted to hear when Gov. Sonny Perdue visited the city Wednesday.

When someone in the audience at his press conference asked about the possibility of metro Atlanta drawing water out of our coveted Savannah River Basin, Perdue replied, "Look closely, and read my lips. You have nothing to fear."

Sounds reassuring. It sounded that way to Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

Of course, we want to believe the governor. But it's the proposed statewide water management plan that we don't believe in.

"This plan never implied or authorized interbasin transfers of the kind you fear," Perdue told Augustans on Wednesday. True enough. The document doesn't authorize interbasin transfers. That's the job of Georgia's Board of Natural Resources.

Those transfers seem to be implied, though. Starting on page 68 of the draft plan, it lays out all the considerations to be made in the process of engineering an interbasin transfer. These guidelines have every appearance of tacit approval of the bulk movement of water from one watershed to another.

That's a major problem. Saying it's not a major problem is like saying a terrorist isn't dangerous because he doesn't have a bomb -- he just has the instructions on how to make one.

The water plan won approval from an advisory panel Tuesday, and that puts the plan up for approval by the General Assembly. By no means should this water management approach be rubber-stamped the way it currently reads.

Besides the troubling language on interbasin transfers, there's the division of proposed regional water management councils -- their boundaries still don't cleave closely enough to the logical geographic boundaries of river basins. The funding provisions for the $30 million plan aren't specific. The plan exempts agriculture from all conservation measures. It lingers too long on "assimilation capacity" -- basically how much waste a body of water can take; that assumes a right to pollute.

And on and on. There's so much wrong with this plan that the idea of scrapping it outright and starting over is starting to sound more attractive.

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