Alabama Water Planning Continues to Move Forward
People from across Alabama attended event hosted by the Alabama Rivers Alliance and the Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club to keep moving Alabama toward a statewide water plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2014
Contact: Mitch Reid, 205-322-6395
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. On Friday, September 26th, more than 50 people from across Alabama participated in a daylong water policy symposium at the Bryant Conference Center on the campus of the University of Alabama. Hosted by The Alabama Rivers Alliance and the Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club, the event was the 8th in a series of water policy symposia that the Rivers Alliance has hosted with various partners and Universities around the state.
“Water wars, drought, and unwarranted complacency,” said Dr. Pat O’Neil, representing the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group, “are colliding right now. We need to move on this but be careful to avoid unintended consequences.”
Friday’s event was the first chance for citizens to get an opportunity to ask the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group (AWAWG) questions about their report, , Mapping the Future of Alabama’s Water Resources Management: Policy Options and Recommendations. This report was commissioned by Governor Bentley in a 2012 directive and it provides a starting point for developing a comprehensive plan for managing and protecting Alabama’s water resources. Dr. O’Neil, the Director of Freshwater Investigations at the Geological Survey of Alabama, provided the stakeholders a briefing on the AWAWG’s report to the Governor and then sat in attendance as stakeholders had an open discussion about the report and their thoughts on developing a water plan for Alabama.
Many of the issues brought up by the stakeholders involved how to best inform the people of the state about the ongoing efforts to develop a water plan and how to ensure that the planning efforts are conducted in an open and transparent process.
“We are pleased that the Working Group agreed to participate in this symposium to discuss their efforts over the last few years,” said Mitch Reid, program director at the Alabama Rivers Alliance. “Dr [Nick] Tew, [the current chair of the AWAWG], has offered to go anywhere and meet with any stakeholders that have an interest in this issue. We appreciate that he is dedicated to hearing from the people of Alabama on this important issue. This meeting represents just a small microcosm of the stakeholders that will be impacted by this important work.”
Alabama is the only state among its neighbors that does not have a water plan. The Alabama Rivers Alliance, which has long advocated the development of such a plan, has worked with partners across the state to host a series of symposia to keep stakeholders informed about the plan’s progress and to gather stakeholder input.
At the Tuscaloosa symposium, stakeholders were welcomed by Mayor Maddox of Tuscaloosa who challenged the audience to carefully study the issue. “Local governments will bear the burden of water policy, said Mayor Maddox, “It’s easy to pass regulation if you don’t have to pay for it. [You] need funding for implementation.” “Nevertheless,” said the Mayor, “Keep up the good fight – you’re on the right side of history. Clean drinking water is not a red state or blue state issue.”
Following Mayor Maddox stakeholders heard from Senator Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, who sits on the State’s Joint Legislative Water Committee. Senator Allen described the importance of managing the state’s water resources and expressed his appreciation to Governor Bentley for directing the state agencies with responsibility over water resources to work together to develop a management plan.
Stakeholders also heard from three programs at the University of Alabama that focus on water planning; The NOAA National Water Center, The University of Alabama’s Center for Freshwater Studies, and the University of Alabama’s Policy and Law Institute.
This symposium will be followed by another in Birmingham on October 9 at Birmingham-Southern College. At BSC, participants will hear from a panel of top water resource planning experts from around the region including Professor Joseph Dellapenna, author of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Regulated Riparian Model Water Code, Jenny Hoffner, Senior Director of American Rivers’ Clean Water Supply Program, Dan Sheer, President of Hydrologics, Inc., and Dr. Aris Georgakakos, Director of the Georgia Water Resources Institute.
“We see these symposia as a great opportunity,” said Reid. “In these meetings, water users and policy makers have come together to discuss how to meet everyone’s needs while protecting the natural wonders of Alabama’s rivers and streams. If you care about water, you’ll definitely want to be in this discussion.”
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About the Alabama Rivers Alliance
The Alabama Rivers Alliance is the statewide organization working to defend and restore Alabama’s rivers by advocating for smart water policy, organizing at the grassroots level, and teaching citizens how they can protect their water in order to achieve healthy rivers, healthy people, and a healthy system of government for the state of Alabama. Please visit www.alabamarivers.org for more information.