March 02, 2017
Farmers near the Alabama, Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers could be allowed to gain access to irrigation water under a bill sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.
SB 255 would authorize farmers whose land does not border the rivers to use water for agricultural irrigation. The bill would limit irrigation to those portions of the rivers where average flows exceed 8,000 cubic feet per second. Farmers would have to report their water use to the Office of Water Resources (OWR) each year. Total non-riparian use would be restricted to 5 percent of average flow at the end of the basin.
The OWR and state climatologist would adopt guidelines related to water use during drought. The guidelines would be approved by the Water Resources Commission, and any restriction would be made by the governor with input from the Alabama Drought Assessment Planning Team (ADAPT).
The bill would require the OWR to annually report non-riparian use to the state climatologist.
SB 255 explicitly states the legislation shall not be construed to change existing law related to riparian rights.
The Federation is studying the complexities of riparian law and how the bill would impact farmers.