Wednesday, December 26, 2018

State's First Water Plan Now Up for Review, Comment

Posted By on Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam wants to hear your comments on a new statewide water plan that came thanks, in part, to the ongoing concerns of the Memphis Sand Aquifer.

In January, Haslam organized a committee to study Tennessee’s water assets here, a group comprised of leaders from federal, state, and local governments, industry, academia, environmental advocacy groups, and public utilities.

“Tennessee is blessed with great sources of water today, but we should never take that for granted,” Haslam said in a statement. “As our state grows, we must maintain our capacity to meet our water needs. That takes a plan, and I am grateful for the amount of work that has gone into this issue.”

The group studied surface water, groundwater, and natural aquatic systems. They reviewed the state’s water and wastewater infrastructure, water law, and recreation areas. The group then made recommendations to maintain water availability here in the future. That plan — called TN H2O — was made public in early December and will be open to public comment through the end of February.

Here are some recommendations from the plan:

• Address current and impending infrastructure needs. A mechanism should be established to address unserved areas, infrastructure repair/replacement issues, and funding shortfalls faced by rural systems.

• Develop a comprehensive water resources planning process and planning cycle based on good science and information (consistent monitoring, data collection, modeling, trending, and reporting) that includes all major users and stakeholders.

• Develop a campaign to help the public and decision makers understand the value of water and natural resources and complexity in managing them.

• Encourage greater collaboration and communication concerning Tennessee’s water resources.

• Evaluate existing laws to assess their implementation (e.g., Water Resources Act, Watershed District Act, and Water Resources Information Act) and determine and enable proper jurisdictions for regional water planning and programs.

• Use the state water-resources task force or advisory committee and regional water-resources jurisdictions to facilitate intrastate and interstate regional cooperation.

• Identify sustainable funding for all TN H2O recommendations.

“This plan will help inform our future leaders — inside and outside of government — on important steps they can take to ensure our abundance of water,” said Deputy Governor Jim Henry, who served as chairman of the committee. “This plan will need continuous and close attention to keep our economy and quality of life thriving for future generations.”

The need for such a plan came as the state’s population is set to double over the next 50 years, according to the news release form Haslam’s office. But it also came “along with recent concerns over the utilization of the Memphis Sand Aquifer, droughts that have impacted numerous Tennessee communities, failures of aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and interstate battles over water rights."

The plan is available for viewing here. The comment period ends February 28th, 2019.

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