The EPD is not accepting new applications for farm water permits in parts of the lower Flint and Chattahoochee River basins, a region known as “Subarea 4.” The suspension, though already in effect, will not affect the consideration of applications that were submitted through July 30.
Only the northwest corner of Grady County falls into Subarea 4, so the county should not see any major effects of the suspension, says University of Georgia Extension Agent Don Clark.
Additionally, he explains that a majority of the land in Subarea 4 already has irrigation, and this suspension of water permit consideration will not restrict irrigation that is already established.
Clark indicates that over the past three years, subsoil moisture in the Flint River basin has been depleted, in part because of recent periods of drought. He says that even though the rainfall that the area has experienced lately has begun to break the drought, the EPD still wants to take a look at the amount of irrigation these water sources can sustainably support.
The decision to suspend consideration of water permits pertains to both groundwater and surface water use in Subarea 4, and will essentially bar all new access to these significant irrigation resources for the time being.
Furthermore, the suspension not only applies to new applications, but also to requests to modify or expand existing permits.
EPD Director Judd Turner explains, “A continued increase in withdrawals from these resources may ultimately lead to unacceptable impacts to existing users or compromise the sustainable capacity of these resources.”
In addition to the ground and surface water withdrawal application suspensions in all or parts of the counties in Subarea 4 (Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Sumter, Terrell, Turner and Worth), applications for surface water withdrawal are suspended in the following counties outside of Subarea 4: Chattahoochee, Clay, Early, Marion, Randolph, Schley, Stewart and Webster.
The suspension, which will be reevaluated each year beginning November 2013, will allow the EPD to examine the impact of increased water withdrawals on the river basins in Subarea 4.