The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin: A Model for Sustainability?
Hall, Millard W.
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Both scarcity and uncontrolled excess of water in the South-eastern U.S. have been much in evidence of late, calling into question the adequacy of the region's current water management. Expected future population growth and urbanization, as well as expanding public recognition of water's value in the good husbandry of other resources make it likely that its management will face additional, increasingly difficult, near term challenges. The strong possibility of global climate change in the years ahead expands the dimension of uncertainty about meeting these challenges. In addition, federal support for water management, excepting the management of its quality, has nearly vanished in the past thirty years. Clearly, the region's traditional approach to water management, trying to meet, piecemeal, the demands of uncontrolled development, is not working. This situation, now building toward crisis proportions in the ACF Basin, cannot be sustained. A fresh strategy of water management is proposed, derived by: inverting the historical policies of "top down" water resources planning and management, led chiefly by federal and/or state entities; placing much more of the responsibility for managing this resource at the local (basin or sub-basin) level; redefining flood control and water supply priorities; giving a new emphasis to conservation and reuse, powered by a new water pricing structure; and recasting the water management roles of federal, state and local governments. Instead of management by broad, sweeping national and/or state policy and institutions, most often aimed at meeting demands for water supply and flood control as they arise, let water resources be managed from the "bottom up", placing the focus on the needs of a particular basin (or sub-basin), regardless of the number of states in which it falls. Instead of treating water management as if it is a public right, let it, within well defined priorities, be managed and paid for largely by the beneficiaries of its management, in accordance with value received. To a degree much larger than in the past, let those most affected by a basin's waters, rather than the general public, pay for its management. And require of these same entities more decision making within a public policy framework which allows them greater latitude in meeting the needs of their basins.
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