Regulating Instream Flow Levels to Benefit and Preserve Aquatic Ecology: Potential Legal Authority for Instituting Variable Flow Regimes
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Georgia's freshwater rivers, streams, and wetlands, among the country's most biologically diverse aquatic habitats, are inadequately protected by Georgia's current minimum instream flow level--7Q10 (the lowest average stream flow expected to occur over 7 consecutive days once every 10 years). The Georgia Environmental Protection Division uses this 7Q10 minimum flow statistic as a design dilution streamflow when determining allowable pollutant loadings from point source dischargers. Many of Georgia's river systems have depleted or managed flows, jeopardizing aquatic habitats and organisms that depend upon the variable water flow of a natural river system. In December 1995, the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources published a report entitled "A Recommended Method to Protect Instream Flows in Georgia," which concluded that Georgia's current instream flow level does not adequately protect the biological diversity of aquatic habitats. This note discusses potential legal authority for instituting variable minimum flow levels, allowing for consideration and protection of biological integrity and diversity.
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