FERGUSON: State wants to fool with Mother Nature

February 21, 2014 

There are some things in life that are vitally important to us that we tend to take for granted because we assume we will always have them. Take water for instance. Most of the time we use it like we can never run out of it, until we start to run out. Then it quickly becomes a very big issue.

In case you haven’t heard, the state of Georgia has a serious water problem. We share a river system with neighboring Alabama and Florida, and they say we are using too much of it before it flows into their states. A lot of the problem stems from rapid population growth in the Atlanta area. They are using more and more water in that part of the state and our relationship with our neighbors is growing increasingly contentious as the problem gets worse.

It the midst of all this water-wrangling, a bill has quietly been introduced in the Georgia Legislature that is interesting, to say the least. The bill would give the state the authority to pump water from underground aquifers into the Flint River during droughts to keep the river’s water flow from running too low.

The bill’s backers claim the state would use that authority to save wildlife that may be harmed during severe drought, but many environmentalists fear the state has another agenda. Specifically, they believe the water-pumping authority would be used to keep the Flint flowing healthily into bordering states clamoring for more water while Atlanta continues to use as much water as it needs to keep its growth going uninterrupted.

I’m definitely skeptical about whether the government should be trusted with this kind of power, deciding how much water should be diverted from one place to another based on the whims of a politician and the big-money lobbyists who might be pulling his strings. They have too much power as it is without giving them control over Mother Nature.

If they do go ahead with the bill, the conditions under which this pumping can occur should be narrowly drawn and should be subject to approval of a board of environmental scientists who are not political appointees. If the goal is indeed to save wildlife and not to create a backdoor to resolve our water disputes with our neighbors, then it should not be an issue to keep the authority to resolve drought-related water shortages out of the hands of government bureaucrats.

That still leaves the larger issue of state’s (mostly Atlanta’s) dispute with our neighbors over the sharing of water rights unresolved. Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and decide how much water each state is entitled to.

Frankly, I think that’s a good idea. The states have tried and failed to resolve this issue for decades, and I’m not confident an agreement can be reached without outside mediation.

Private mediation would have been a great way to settle this thing maturely, by the way, but that would still involve the parties involved abiding by the mediator’s decision, which I suspect they won’t do unless outside force is applied. I’m sure that’s why Gov. Scott wants a Supreme Court ruling. I suspect he is pressing for such a resolution because he is confident that his position is a strong one and that an impartial court will rule that Georgia (especially Atlanta) is sucking up much more than its fair share of the wet stuff.

What Atlanta really needs to do is face reality. Water is not an unlimited resource and it needs to stop acting as if it is. Conservation should be stressed, primarily. And though this will be heresy to the ears of many of the fat cats and blue bloods in the big city, maybe the growth just needs to slow down some up there.

Somewhere 100 miles northwest of here some land developer just read those words and spit out his Dom Perignon.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.

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