Policy options for improving state management of agricultural water withdrawals in Georgia
Christy, Don R.
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This thesis examined Georgia’s agricultural water use management program. Historically, common law was used to resolve disputes among water users. In light of the increasing demands being placed upon the state’s water resources, the Georgia General Assembly enacted a series of statutes in the 1970s requiring large users of ground water and surface water to obtain administrative permits prior to withdrawal and use. These allocation programs exempted agricultural water use, which proved problematic as irrigation use increased. In 1988, the General Assembly enacted amendments including farm water uses in both allocation programs; however the amendments did not provide full legal authority for effective management. As a result of these policy choices, Georgia’s agricultural water management program has serious deficiencies. This thesis examines policy options available to address selected deficiencies. The thesis concludes that farm water use permits need quantification, term limits, and forfeiture provisions. Farm water use should be measured and reported. Withdrawals exceeding the regulatory threshold from ponds for farm use need permitting. State law should be clarified regarding the nature of the permit holder. Provisions regarding irrigation of recreational turf should be removed from the definition of farm water use. This thesis also examines substate institutional structures that could be used to improve management of agricultural water withdrawals. The thesis identified structures from Arkansas and Mississippi as potential models. The Mississippi model should serve as the basis for discussion of regional agricultural water management districts in Georgia.
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