WATER AGREEMENT COULD INCREASE IRRIGATION REGULATIONS
"MONTGOMERY, Ala." A tentative agreement reached between Alabama and Georgia over the flow of water in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) river basin will have an impact on farmers' access to water resources, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation.
Paul Pinyan, director of agricultural legislation for the Federation, said the agreement would require the State of Alabama to establish a water permitting policy for farmers and other small businesses.
"The agreement lays out the framework for water resource management between the two states by creating an ACT Committee with oversight and monitoring responsibilities," Pinyan said. "That means Alabama will have to develop regulations that dictate how much water an individual can withdraw from the basin, and establish reporting procedures for his water use."
A Water Quantity Issues Workgroup was formed to study the provisions of the agreement and develop recommendations for permitting and monitoring. Pinyan said the Federation is currently helping to identify stakeholders who will meet with the workgroup to ensure farmers' water needs are adequately addressed.
"We are encouraging the workgroup to consider all possible solutions to the competing demands for water before saddling farmers with cumbersome and costly regulations," Pinyan added. "While we agree that a long-term plan is needed to manage water use, we are concerned that additional reporting requirements could interfere with farmers being able to irrigate their crops and water their livestock."
Because urban residents vastly outnumber those in rural areas, Pinyan said city dwellers will likely get water before farmers if another drought forces the state to restrict use. As recently as last summer, greenhouse and nursery operations near Birmingham lost thousands of dollars when they were forced to stop watering their plants because of a water shortage.
The 30-year agreement, which must be approved by federal agencies and the governors of both states, would reduce water flow in the three-river system during wet seasons and increase flow during drier times.