If we are to solve our water issue, we need to:
1. Improve conservation efforts
2. Promote public-private cooperation in the development of new reservoirs
3. Allow for greater flexibility in the distribution of water resources throughout the state
4. Improve cooperation with our state's neighbors in every direction
HB 1094 under consideration begins moving these efforts forward. Beginning in July 2012, the legislation requires efficient water fixtures in all new residential and commercial construction statewide as well as the installation of efficient cooling towers in new industrial construction. Also, for all new residential and commercial multi-unit projects, the bill will require sub-metering so that each unit will receive consumption reports and have incentive to practice conservation measures.
The legislation also instructs eight different state agencies to look at local government and water provider grant and loan programs to develop incentive criteria that would encourage retrofit programs on existing construction. For example, a community could receive a interest rate discount for a Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) loan or be able to apply for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) annually instead of every two years. These incentive programs could range from retrofitting water fixtures to installing drought resistant landscapes to using grey water and implementing conservation pricing.
These incentives will also apply to water supply development as well, such as interconnections, new reservoirs, reservoir expansion and others.
The act will also create a joint House and Senate committee on water supply that will to look at the task force's work on additional contingency supply options.
The bill also tasks the Georgia Environmental Protection Division with setting standards for water loss and leak detection for all medium and large public water systems. These systems serve 91 percent of Georgia's water customers. Because data on water loss is currently not comparable from system to system, setting the standards will allow the state to assist water providers by identifying where the biggest losses are occurring.
The final piece of the legislation extends the voluntary agriculture monitoring program to include surface water withdrawals. Farmers around the state have voluntarily agreed to have groundwater withdrawals monitored and the results have disproven many negative assumptions about agricultural water use. Extending this program to surface water withdrawals, from our rivers, streams and lakes, will continue to provide the state critical data that informs not only water negotiations with our neighbors but also our water inventory of sources and uses that Georgia's Regional Water Councils are currently developing.