ALBANY, Ga. -- Often it's not considered -- taken for granted when we turn our taps, water our lawns, throw in a line in, even pay our food bill. Everyone needs water and lots of it.
In this part of Southwest Georgia the big boy of above-ground water systems is the Flint River. But in 2009, the Flint was No. 2 a list of the nation's 10 most endangered rivers in a report by the conservationist group, American Rivers. This year, it climbed to No. 4 on the Georgia Water Coalition's "Dirty Dozen" list of state water systems.
Flint Riverkeeper, a group of business owners and managers, farmers, sportsman and other stakeholders concerned with the future of regional clean water, are winding up the old year and preparing for the legislative battles of 2013.
According to Gordon Rogers, executive director of Flint Riverkeeper, the battles are ongoing and range from cronyism as far up as the Governor's Office, regular and rampant raiding of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division budget, inequities in conservation responsibilities and more -- all contributing to endangerment of our clean and plentiful water, especially during drought years.
Among the most pressing issues for the coming year is the EPD's Hazardous Waste Trust Fund. Up for renewal in 2013, river advocates want to keep the fund -- as long as some changes are made.
"The fund has been raided (to fund other purposes) time and time again," Rogers said. "Our goal is to get it renewed but to put more 'trust' in the trust fund."
In fact, according to an article by the Georgia Water Coalition, state Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, introduced a bill this year aimed to stop the raiding. It passed in the House but was "gutted" in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Ultimately it was killed by lack of compromise in the final session hours.
Rogers and fellow water stewards also want a requirement to provide uniform emergency response capability around the state for contaminating spills.
"Right now there are various types and degrees of response capability. Areas around the state are prepared for different types of emergencies with no uniformity. I'm not saying, though, that every area should be prepared for disasters that could never happen."
Also of concern to the Riverkeeper group is the recent EPD moratorium on agricultural drilling permits in 17 south Georgia counties. While in favor of the move by EPD, according to Rogers, Riverkeeper would go much further.
"That's a good partial step," Rogers said. "Our goals are bigger than that."
Rogers would stop the drilling in 43 counties, all the way to the headwaters of the Flint, he said, for an area roughly 20 percent the size of Georgia's total land area. More than that, to solve the water usage problems he would extend water restrictions to municipal and industrial users as well.
"It's not just an agricultural problem," Rogers said. "It should be comprehensive. South Georgia is mostly agricultural, while north Georgia is municipal and industrial. It should be everybody, every day, everywhere. That's one of our goals."