Last week, I was honored to be the recipient of a Clean Water Champion Award from the Georgia Water Coalition. The Georgia Water Coalition is a group of more than 200 organizations that works tirelessly across the state to ensure plentiful, clean water for us, our kids, and generations of Georgians to come after us. I want to thank the Coalition for their efforts and the people who took time away from their work and families to paddle the river for seven days to raise awareness about water issues.
Their work is important because they protect one of Georgia’s most vital natural resources. Not only is our water important to our economy and well-being, it is also one of our top recreation and tourism draws. I spend a lot of time out on our lakes with Gretchen, Spence III, and Ruby during the summertime. I also get the chance from time to time to fish on our rivers and streams with friends.
While I am very appreciative of the award, I know there is still significant work left to be done. Each year, the Coalition publishes its list of Georgia’s Dirty Dozen, a look at 12 rivers that remain polluted or inadequately managed because of policy missteps by state government. In their 2013 report, the Coalition states that Georgia is overlooking cost-effective alternatives to growing the state’s water supply and is not providing enough funding to the Environmental Protection Division’s work on water preservation.
We took a step forward in 2014 by revising the Flint River Drought Protection Act to provide a definition for Flint River augmentation projects. The projects will be limited to a specific area in the lower Flint River basin to maintain the amount of water needed to protect vulnerable aquatic life. I voted for the legislation and was happy to see it receive overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
There are still 11 rivers with serious unaddressed problems, including the Oconee River which provides drinking water to Athens. Throughout the summer and into the next legislative session, my team and I will be looking at what can be done including considering the proposals by the Coalition in their Dirty Dozen report and a more comprehensive list of priorities in their 2013 report Recommendations for a Healthy Water Future.
I look forward to continuing this work throughout the year and would be grateful for your thoughts and concerns about Georgia’s water future. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Georgia House of Representatives.