A Democratic legislator is proposing a partial statewide outdoor watering ban as Georgia seeks to reach a compromise with Florida and Alabama in their roughly 20-year-old water rights dispute.
The bill Rep. Debbie Buckner of Junction City filed Thursday would prohibit outdoor watering for “planting, growing, managing, or maintaining ground cover, trees, shrubs, or other plants” between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. No hearing has been scheduled on the bill yet, she said.
Some exceptions would apply. The ban would take effect when and if it becomes law, and local governments would enforce it through ordinances.
Buckner said she filed the legislation in response to Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson’s ruling from last year. Magnuson stunned Georgia officials in July when he ruled the state has little right to Lake Lanier, a federal reservoir that is the main source of the Atlanta region’s drinking water. The judge has given the states and Congress three years to reach a compromise before restricting access to the lake to levels from the mid-1970s, when Atlanta was a fraction of its current size.
"His ruling has forced us to do what we needed to be doing for a long time," said Buckner, who serves on the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee. "We have got to do water conservation. We have got to show our neighboring states that we are serious about doing things a little different in the way we handle our water in Georgia."
The proposed ban would not apply to commercial agricultural operations, the capture and reuse of cooling system or storm water, the reuse of gray water or the use of reclaimed wastewater. It also would not apply to watering personal food gardens and new landscapes installed by certified or licensed professionals during the planting and for 30 days immediately afterward.
The landscaping industry and environmentalists are divided on the bill.
“Focusing on evening water use does not give the flexibility needed to ensure plant health,” said Mary Kay Woodworth, president of the Georgia Urban Agriculture Council, which promotes the landscaping industry. She said the bill “takes away the do-it-yourselfers’ ability to install and water their landscapes at their homes and businesses.”
April Ingle, executive director of the Georgia River Network, said the Athens-based river protection group supports “scheduling outdoor watering to make sure we are using our water supplies efficiently.”
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