An Open Letter to Alabama Lawmakers
As you take up your charge this legislative session, your actions will define this important milestone year for our state. More importantly, you will set the tone and direction for not just the next four years, but the next century.
The bicentennial celebration gives us the motivation and opportunity to reflect on our history as a state, both the successes and the challenges. One cannot reflect on Alabama’s history without acknowledging the role that water has played in every aspect of our success as a state. Our great state seal highlights Alabama’s rivers for a reason.
Today, those waterways are surging across our state with great urgency, begging to be noticed, pleading to be your priority.
Rivers that provide vital drinking water to the people of northwest Alabama are threatened from decades of chemicals released into their waters. Lakes and rivers all across Alabama are contaminated with mercury and PCBs, making their fish unfit for human consumption and threatening one of our favorite Alabama pastimes. Business leaders, local governments and residents from Florence to Mobile are concerned about harmful pollution from coal ash continually leaking into their groundwater. Coastal communities are even more vulnerable if Alabama is tested by a Harvey or Florence type hurricane, millions of tons of coal ash could empty from storage pits and jeopardize our entire coastal economy — just as many have worked so hard to rebuild it. Flood waters are ravaging homes, yet a mere two years ago, every county in the state was suffering from one of the worst droughts in our history, driving up drinking water costs and causing massive fish and mussel kills.
Meanwhile, many of Alabama’s struggling rural communities are looking to outdoor recreation as a way to breathe new life into their economies. Protecting clean water is essential to capitalizing on this opportunity.
As lawmakers, you can no longer rely on Mother Nature’s goodwill to keep our waters clean, flowing and protected. We the people of Alabama, need you to lead and make water a priority in your decision making. Our 132,000 miles of rivers and streams need you too.
Alabama’s state agencies that are tasked with conserving, protecting, and studying water must be funded adequately. They must also be directed to use their funding wisely and be held accountable when they allow problems to continue unchecked. Additionally, any investment in Alabama’s crumbling infrastructure cannot ignore vital drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
Alabama’s lack of proper oversight of our water use is short-sighted. Strong protections for our waterways can and should be addressed through legislation. You can make that shift this year by supporting legislation that puts clean water and proper water protection first.
This session, the Alabama Water Conservation and Security Act has been introduced for the third year. This bill addresses vital gaps in Alabama’s water laws that will help us better protect and manage water for our present and future needs.
More water bills will be coming and environmental leaders and experts stand ready to provide you with any information you need to study the impacts of these bills and make the right decision.
Let Alabama’s 200th year be the year that we set a path to a clean water future for Alabama’s children and for their children’s children.