Alabama’s water resources are worth preserving

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 18, 2006

There aren’t many places in the world that are as beautiful asAlabamain the spring. The flowers are in bloom, the weather is great, and this time of year is a wonderful reminder of how blessed we are to live inAlabama. The beautiful weather also reminds us of the fact that April 22 is Earth Day.

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, people around the world have celebrated the environment through a variety of individual and community activities. The core idea of Earth Day is about renewing the commitment to preserving the natural resources we have been blessed to inherit. It is important that we understand how precious our resources are, and that without conservation they won’t last forever.

One of our state’s principle natural resources is our water.Alabamais known as the “RiverState,” and has over 77,000 miles of rivers and 490,000 acres of ponds, lakes and reservoirs. In fact, our state has more navigable waterways than any other state in the nation.

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However, as Alabama and our neighboring states continue to grow, the residential and industrial use of the state’s water resources continue to increase as well. During the last 50 years, per capita use of water has increased 150%. While 38.6 billion gallons of water daily enter Alabama from adjacent states, roughly 92 billion gallons leave daily.

For example,Atlantais located at the beginning of some ofAlabama’s most important watersheds. As the city grows at a rapid pace, the need for water grows exponentially.Atlantahas been taking more water fromCoosa,Tallapoosa, andChattahoocheeRivers. AsAtlantauses more water, the flow of these important rivers is reduced substantially, causing significantly less water flow downstream. Reduced river levels adversely affect industry, navigation, and recreational use of the river. Less flow of water also leaves our rivers more susceptible to the pollutants flowing fromAtlantaas well.

This dilemma highlights the need for water policy in our state. There is no statewide law governing water protection and planning for its use inAlabama, and without a guiding policy several representatives have had to pass local bills in an attempt to protect local water resources.

In 2005, Rep.Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, passed a bill prohibiting inMarshallCountythe transfer of water from theTennessee Riverout of theTennesseevalley. Since then several otherTennesseevalley Democrats have worked to pass similar legislation. Hopefully in the near future, the governor’s office will address the problem and lead a charge for statewide water protection.

While laws are a way to protect our water, there are ways that individuals can help ensure that water is used responsibly.

The World Wide Federation offers several suggestions of ways to use less water such as:

turning off the water while shaving or brushing your teeth, washing only full loads of dishes and laundry, water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day, and repairing all leaks.

Fresh water is one of our most precious natural resources, and the Legislature will continue to look for ways to protect and conserve one ofAlabama’s biggest assets. I challenge everyone to try some of these small changes to make a big difference. You’ll be amazed how easy it is, and what a difference it will make for future generations to inherit clean and abundant natural resources.