Developing Watershed Protection Criteria for Georgia
Ashley, David M.
Word, David M.
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Most smaller public water systems in north Georgia have traditionally used groundwater; those that used surface water had little development in upstream watersheds and little need for watershed protection. The droughts of 1981, 1986 and 1988 reinforced the need for more dependable water supplies in north Georgia. Groundwater supplies were generally inadequate and reinforced the need to shift to surface water. However, most surface water sources are small, so reservoirs are needed for reliable drought supplies and to meet future growth (Georgia Environmental Protection Division, 1987). Regulation of land use above smaller reservoir/intake watersheds will be necessary to protect water quality in developing areas, because acquisition is generally not practical. Traditionally (and by state constitution), land use regulation is a local responsibility. Watershed boundaries, however, seldom follow political boundaries. A small grants program initiated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in 1987 for reservoir planning met with limited success in promoting watershed protection. This was probably due to the difficulties of resolving interjurisdictional conflicts between local governments. The Governor's Growth Strategies Commission recognized the problem in its final report and recommended: (1) Minimum standards for watershed protection in regional and local planning. (2) Local authority to enforce watershed protection standards. (3) Administrative procedures to resolve disputes at the regional or state level. (4) Regional review of local compliance with State guidelines. (5) Authority at the state level to deal with multi-jurisdictional settings to ensure that all affected parties are brought together to plan for entire watersheds, using Regional Development Center (RDC) boundaries whenever possible (Governor's Growth Strategy Commission, 1988).