Monday, November 24, 2008

I like Don Nelson a whole lot, but I disagree with this column and, quite frankly, it comes across as more than a little misguided. His argument centers on the notion that this would be 'bad' for business, and that should trump all.

So, let's see how he makes said argument ...

Rising prices across the board, the housing and credit malaise, the dismal economy and our extended drought are taking their toll on our small businesses, the building blocks of our commercial community.

The drought is hurting business. OK, fair enough. However, isn't the drought also, you know, drastically altering our way of life? Doesn't it put an immediate threat on our ability to continue to grow, consume and live in an environment that might possible be shifting to one that has substantially reduced rainfall and, as a result, dramatically less water for our community to share?

So while business interests should rightfully be considered when structuring any sort of water policy, they should be just one of many components taken into consideration. And that's because Nelson's cautions have more to do with immediate business concerns and fail to recognize the long-term consequences we're going to have to manage with regard to the drought.

The point that must be stressed here is that drawing from a well or water sources that border their property is regulated to some extent. All that exists now is that one can drill a well or draw from those sources up to 100,000 gallons per day without obtaining a permit. Surely Nelson, if he concedes that drawing from aquifiers have an impact on our overall water supply, can recognize the need to something about that.


Blogger Brian said...

C'mon Jmac, this is a classic Athens response. So in the middle of the worse recession anyone can remember, we are going to put yet another burden on businesses in this community by limiting their ability to drill wells and force them to potentially pay city water rates?

Only in a town like Athens, where a huge percentage of jobs are government related, would this even be considered in the middle of a recession. Let me tell you what "drastically alters the way of life" for most people: no paycheck. So why shouldn't business issues move to the top of the heap? What good is a green utopia if no one can afford to live in it?

At a time when paychecks are DISAPPEARING for many local families as revenues diminish for local businesses, any additional regulatory burden (on top of the local stormwater fees implemented on industry mandated by the state) is ridiculous. Keep in mind that this could be the private nursery or tree farm down the road from you that employs 20+ people. The organic farm. Or the facility that needs a little extra water but in a rural area. All these "green belt" farms and facilities we love on the outskirts of Athens likely use wells (I agree with Don that removing water from creeks and streams could be looked at independently, perhaps).

Any politician who is proposing new fees and regulations on businesses and homeowners right now has a true tin ear.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

And, all due respect, this is a classic 'me-first' and 'head-in-the-ground' type of response that fostered the type of wasteful use of water that exacerbated our ongoing water crisis.

Again, what am I arguing for here? I can concede that a shift to city water rates might be something that not be the best move right now, but it seems to me to be hard to suggest that the daily limit for drawing water should surely be lowered from 100,000 gallons per day ... particularly when the rest of us are doing what we can to conserve.

Shoot, what are you arguing for? If you concede that aquifiers are connected to the rest of our water supplies, it's difficult to me how you can then argue against setting some measure of regulation to usage. If you're opposed to this, then you must be opposed to the existing restrictions imposed on those who use municipal water.

Water is interconnected. How much someone draws from their backyard, be it a well or a stream, directly impacts the availibility of others to draw water. This central fact must be kept in perspective as we evaluate whether or not we are heading toward perpetual drought, and that requires a drastic rethinking of how we manage our water supplies.

Our economic crisis will pass, though not without pain and sacrifice, but how we manage our water supplies is something that must be scrutinized and evaluated during good times and bad ones too.

It just seems to be a cop-out to say 'let's hold on long-term water planning and focus on the recession right now.'

10:18 AM  
Blogger Kelly Girtz said...

Brian has put together a bit of a straw-man argument. Nobody on the ACC Commission has asked that ANY fee be assessed to well owners and paid to local government.

The request was simply that during times of drought, limits on withdrawals be considered as part of statewide policy. Similar policies already exist in FL and NC. This would take into account a broader range of water users, not just those on municipal systems, and would recognize (as JMac has pointed-out) the connections between various sources of water.

I could not create the exact limits that should extend to well and stream withdrawals, but this is a situation that would benefit from the advice of area hydrologists rather than get lost under the great trump card of "property rights".


11:40 AM  
Blogger paveplanet said...


I agree completely with your post. Water needs to be looked at as something that impacts a larger region than simply something that passes through a piece of land. That is why ground water should not be looked at any different than withdraws from creeks and/or rivers.

However, what really irks me about Brian's post is his "anything for business" suggestions. Yes, the economy sucks right now, but a lot of the problems that we (taxpayers) are having to figure out how to pay for and fix can be directly tied to business's inabilities to do things to preserve themselves for the long-term. Much like the long-term consequences of sucking every last drop of water out from the ground.

12:06 PM  

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