Some geologic studies done by the US Geological Survey suggested that, under conditions of extreme drought and increased agricultural irrigation the Flint River would “dry up”, or be seriously affected. In order to prevent this from happening in the future, the Director of EPD initiated the FRB Plan in 1999.
EPD is not issuing any new permits for irrigation wells drawing from the Floridan aquifer in the lower Flint River Basin. This are is known as “Subarea 4”, which is part of the ACT-ACF river basin. It encompasses most of the lower Flint River Basin and a small part of the Ochlockonee and Suwannee River basins. Agricultural groundwater permits are available for other aquifers in the lower Flint River basin, such as the Claiborne and Cretaceous aquifers.
No new surface water irrigation permits are being issued for the entire Flint River Basin from Atlanta to Lake Seminole.
The Flint River and its tributaries in southwest Georgia are in direct hydraulic connection with the Floridan aquifer, and receive hundreds of millions of gallons of water from it. Most wells pull water from the Floridan aquifer. The more water pulled from the aquifer, the less water seeps into the Flint and its tributaries.
Agricultural water use is by far and away the largest category of water use in the Flint River Basin. At the peak of the growing season, farmers in southwest Georgia may use as much as 2 billion gallons of water per day. In contrast, industries and municipalities use only 18% of that.
The FRB Plan will be completed in December 2005. By then we will know whether the moratorium can be lifted in whole, or in part. It is possible that it can be lifted in some areas and not in others. The FRB Plan will be looking carefully at the existing distribution of irrigation wells and surface water pumps, and where people would like to install new ones to see if parts of the basin are already over-committed or not.
Have a question? Please e-mail your question to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division at FRBplan@dnr.state.ga.us.