Alabama is one the most water-abundant states in the nation, but does not have a management plan for that abundance.
Gov. Kay Ivey last week disbanded a committee charged with developing a statewide water management plan. The committee was appointed in 2012 by former Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned in April. Ivey has disbanded a number of committees appointed by Bentley.
The Alabama Water Agencies Working Group, as the committee was called, did not produce anything of significance, which seems to be a tradition for agencies and committees assigned to craft a water plan. The group was to have submitted a plan by the end of 2013.
Back in 1990, the Water Resources Act gave the Office of Water Resources, under the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the responsibility to develop a statewide water management plan. To date, there is no tangible plan.
The Alabama Rivers Alliance, an environmental watchdog, is concerned that the state remains without a plan in an era when droughts have parched the South.
Cindy Lowry, executive director of Alabama Rivers Alliance, said no one is monitoring the total amount of water being pulled from rivers by multiple industrial users, or the impacts those withdrawals are having downstream.
The Southern Environmental Law Center has concerns, too.
Sarah Stokes, the center’s attorney, said state policies have been ineffective, in part because they provide no protections during droughts.
Ivey, in a letter explaining termination of the study group, said she will rely on existing data for water policy decisions.
The (hopefully) good news is ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said two water studies will be published soon mapping the state’s water supplies. He said they will provide “a significant baseline of data and information” for water management.
Here’s more bad news. To create a water management plan, $3 million will be needed to draft it. In a state that is perpetually broke because of an archaic and regressive tax code, that could be an insurmountable challenge. If the money is provided, it would take three years to complete.
Alabama desperately needs a water management plan. Climate change demands that fresh water sources be managed with the greatest care and foresight possible.