The Georgia Water Stewardship Act

Governor Sonny Perdue recently announced a comprehensive proposal known as the Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010. The proposed Act not only encourages water conservation, but also reduces wasteful loss and incentivizes innovation in increasing water supply.

The proposed Act was introduced as bills in both the House and the Senate. House Bill 1094 was introduced by Representative Lynn Smith, Chairman of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee. Senate Bill 370 was introduced by Senator Ross Tolleson, Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

The bills encompass a multi-faceted approach to water conservation and future water capacity on a statewide level. The proposed legislation contains a combination of mandatory and volunteer measures.

Under the proposed Act, all state agencies addressing Georgia’s water issues would have until August 1, 2010 to examine their programs, policies and rules and submit a report identifying opportunities to provide incentives for voluntary water conservation measures. Incentives would apply to water supply development as well, such as interconnections, new reservoirs, reservoir expansion and reuse measures.

Under the Act, if passed, beginning in July 2012, mandatory ultra-low flow plumbing fixtures would be required on all new residential and commercial construction. Also, mandatory sub-metering would be required on all new multi-family construction. Additionally, efficient cooling towers on all new commercial construction would be required by the bills.

The proposed bills also charge the Environmental Protection Division with establishing water loss standards and leak detection for certain public water systems. The bills, if passed, would also extend the voluntary agriculture monitoring program to include surface water withdrawals.

Many of the proposals in the bills are based on recommendations from the Governor’s Water Contingency Task Force, which consists of more than 80 business, government and environmental leaders from across the State of Georgia. The bills if passed would also create a joint House and Senate committee on water supply that would look at the Task Force’s work concerning the state’s strategic needs for additional water supply, including the identification of creative financing options.

Senate Bill 370 unanimously passed the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee on February 17, 2010. During the week of March 1, 2010, the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee passed a substitute bill for House Bill 1094 with amendments which includes schedules for outdoor watering. Both the House and Senate bills are expected to proceed for floor votes this week.

For more information about the Water Stewardship Act, please contact Marcia M. Ernst, a member of our Sustainability Practice Group who monitors legislative activity relative to real estate development at the State Capitol as an appointed member of the Government Affairs Committee of the Home Builders Association of Georgia

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