ALBANY — Community leaders from Albany and surrounding counties gathered at the Flint RiverQuarium on Thursday for a discussion about water resource management in the region and state.
The forum was facilitated by the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership with funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Its aim is to empower attendees to make more informed decisions in their businesses, organizations and communities.
Mark Masters, a member of IGEL and director of the Georgia Water Planning and Policy Center at Albany State University, said that Albany is the second of six planned stops at locations all around the state to discuss water resources.
“It’s (about) expanding the understanding of water resources to community leaders, faith leaders, government officials, NGOs, that type of thing, but also trying to instill those IGEL values that we have,” Masters said. “We’ve learned over time (to) talk together about issues instead of people just going to their corners. IGEL is all about improving the dialogue about environmental issues, so that was the goal of the forum.”
Masters said he was encouraged by the number of people who attended the forum, as well as the diversity of the group.
“We were really excited about the group that came,” he said. “It was diverse in just about every way you can define diversity. It was a good group that showed up. (There were) elected officials, a senator, a couple of representatives. It was an extraordinarily good turnout.”
And while Albany was just one of the stops, Masters said he thinks these types of discussions are especially important for the Albany area and greater southwest Georgia region.
“Southwest Georgia runs on water,” Masters said. “Albany has a very rich history with water resources. Agriculture is a really important part of southwest Georgia; it is the backbone of our economy. There’s challenges associated with agricultural water use. We talked about some of the topics in water quality here in southwest Georgia.
“From my standpoint, the more people know and understand about water and water resources, the less conflict there will be about water resources. Having done this 20 years, when people actually sit down in a room and get to know each other and talk about the issues, more often than not they’ll come to more agreement than they had when they started. To me, this was a very first good step toward expanding that circle of knowledge about water in Albany and southwest Georgia. It is critically important to our agricultural community, our industry.”