Less than a year after the Alabama Rivers Alliance and the Southern Environmental Law Center released the Alabama Water Agenda calling on state leaders to develop a comprehensive water management plan for Alabama, Governor Bentley has given five state agencies the directive to put together a comprehensive water management plan by December 2013.
Cooper Shattuck, legal advisor for Governor Bentley, announced the directive at the annual meeting of the Alabama Bar Association Environmental Law Section last week. “We are trying to get ahead of the curve,” said Cooper Shattuck, Governor Bentley’s Chief Legal Advisor. “Water is the oil of the 21st century. Certainly right now we have a lot of uncertainty. We want to make sure that we have the benefit of the resource in the future.” Shattuck stressed the need for a science-based policy that considers the needs of all of the water users throughout the State.
The governor’s directive, sent in the form of a letter to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the Alabama Office of Water Resources, and the Geologic Survey of Alabama, tasks these agencies with four objectives:
- Reconvene the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group.
- Create a comprehensive database of Alabama’s water resources.
- Meet with stakeholders.
- Recommend a statewide water management plan by December 1, 2013.
Bennett Bearden, General Counsel for the Geological Survey of Alabama, has been named the chair of the group. Bearden has over 30 years’ experience in the field of natural resources and water policy including over 19 years’ experience in environmental law and policy.
Shattuck also noted that subsequent to the letter, the Governor has added the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to the Working Group. Recently, farm irrigation has risen as a significant future water use and the inclusion of this department is intended to ensure that the interests of the farming community are represented in the development of the water management plan.
“This is the most promising leadership we have seen from an elected official on this issue to date. We are excited about being a part of this process and ensuring that the end product is a fair and implementable plan that will ensure Alabama’s water resources are sustainable for future generations,” stated Mitch Reid, Alabama Rivers Alliance program director.
“We applaud Governor Bentley’s commitment to managing the state’s water resources and look forward to working with all water users to create a sound water management plan for Alabama,” said Gil Rogers, Clean Water Program leader for the Southern Environmental Law Center.