With much of Alabama still recovering from droughts in recent years, no one had to remind the Federation’s Water Resource Planning Committee just how important water is to agriculture when the group met in Montgomery this summer.”The drought situation in 2000–especially the effects of water restrictions on our nursery and greenhouse growers–and the ongoing negotiations among Alabama, Georgia and Florida point to the need for the Federation to have a comprehensive water policy,” said Chairman Dorman Grace of Walker County. “Our goal is to make sure we are ahead of the curve in dealing with water quality and quantity issues.”During the June 14 meeting, the Committee heard from Trey Glenn, director of the Alabama Office of Water Resources (OWR). Glenn reviewed the state’s current water management strategy including updates on the Alabama Drought Assessment Planning Team, the Alabama Safe Dams Program and the tri-state water compact. He also reassured the Committee that the OWR is committed to seeking stakeholder input before pursuing new legislation or regulations. Earlier this year, legislation failed that would have required a person to submit a statement of beneficial use at least 90 days prior to the construction of any facility dependent upon the use or consumption of public water. The Federation opposed that bill as well as one that would have transferred enforcement of Alabama’s Water Resource Act from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to the OWR. Glenn said he plans to introduce a new bill this year on dam safety.Grace said developing a working relationship with Glenn and the OWR is key to the Federation’s goal of ensuring farmers are well represented when it comes to the state’s water policy.”As the population grows, the demand for water is increasing. Right now, the environmental community is very concerned about in-stream flows and how much water we are pulling out for public and private use,” Grace said. “As a committee, part of our job is to educate ourselves and other producers about the challenges we will likely face over how we use water.”The 15-member Water Resources Planning Committee was formed earlier this year by Federation President Jerry Newby and includes farmers from all parts of the state and all major agricultural commodities. The Committee’s first meeting was held April 7. In forming the committee, Newby challenged the members to:• Determine agriculture’s needs and priorities in water usage;• Address water quality and quantity issues;• Evaluate existing Federation water policies; and• Make recommendations for future Federation water policies.The Water Resources Planning Committee hopes to be able to recommend policy changes to the resolutions committee in time for adoption at the Federation’s 2002 annual meeting.
Committee Reviews Federation Water Policy