Auburn University teams with stakeholder groups to share information about Alabama’s water management plan

Auburn University teams with stakeholder groups to share information about Alabama’s water management plan


Cindy Lowry or Mitch Reid
[email protected] or [email protected]

, Ala. Last Friday, over 100 participants from across Alabama crowded into a packed auditorium at Auburn University’s Comer Hall to attend a symposium on the formation of a comprehensive water management plan for Alabama. Mitch Reid, program director for the Alabama Rivers Alliance, began the day by discussing the environmental needs for water management policy.

“We have a lot of water in Alabama, but this environment was designed for that amount of water and we have built industries based on that amount of water,” stated Reid.  “Our challenge is to keep this water flowing for future generations.”

Alabama is the only state among its neighbors that does not have such a plan, and in April of 2012, Governor Robert Bentley directed the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group (AWAWG), made up of the five state agencies with responsibility over the State’s water resources, to recommend a plan for the state.

The Alabama Rivers Alliance, which has long advocated the development of such a plan, is working with partners across the state to host symposia to gather stakeholder input. There have already been symposia in Birmingham and Mobile, and the next symposium will be in Huntsville on June 28, 2013.

Each symposium concentrates on a specific water management theme. The Auburn Symposium, co-sponsored by Auburn University Water Resources Center, Alabama Water Watch, and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, focused on the importance of science-based information to be used in the formation of Alabama’s water management plan. Auburn University faculty presented about how recent Auburn University water-based research projects can guide the development of Alabama’s plan. The research is compiled in a new publication titled Auburn Speaks On Water.

Representatives of all five state agencies making up the AWAWG were present. AWAWG chair, Bennett Bearden, Assistant Attorney General for the Geologic Survey of Alabama, explained the myriad problems facing our state and how the current legal system does not work to protect water users.  He also announced that the Geologic Survey of Alabama and the Office of Water Resources were given funding in the 2013 budget to do water assessments.  According to Bearden, the is the first time in the State’s history that state agencies have been given funding specifically to gather data for the development of a water management plan.  Questions including, “what will be given to the Governor in December?” and “how will a water plan be implemented and enforced?” led to robust conversation throughout the day.

Symposium participants also heard from Jim Giattina, the director of the EPA’s Region 4 Water Management Division about the importance of water flow to the state’s water quality.  “Any state water management plan must comply with the Clean Water Act,” Giattina declared. However, he made it clear that his office considered water management to be a State responsibility.  He also made it clear that more reservoirs are not the answer to water management.  According to Giattina, stream alterations such as dams are one of the leading causes of water quality problems for rivers and streams in the Southeast.

A diverse group of stakeholders ranging from representatives of Alabama Power Company and ALFA to Auburn County Commissioners to concerned citizens were present to ask questions and learn about the state’s progress toward developing a water management plan.

Participants were repeatedly encouraged to provide their comments and feedback to the AWAWG by emailing them to [email protected].  They will be taking stakeholder input ongoing throughout the entire process until their deadline of December 1, 2013.

“We were very pleased with the turnout and the level of engagement of Auburn University in hosting this meeting,” stated Cindy Lowry, executive director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance.

“The Governor has clearly asked the state agencies for recommendations for a comprehensive water management plan as well as recommendations for legislation to implement the plan,” Lowry explained. “It is understandable that they are feeling the weight on their shoulders, but the people, the economy, and the environment of Alabama are depending on this process to ensure secure water supplies for future generations.”

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About the Alabama Rivers Alliance
The Alabama Rivers Alliance is a network of river and water-centered organizations from around Alabama, 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 with in order to achieve healthy rivers, healthy people, and a healthy system of government for the state of Alabama.  Please visit for more information.