The Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is modifying the 2012 agricultural permitting suspension in Southwest Georgia to allow new and modified surface water withdrawal permits in the Suwannee and Ochlockonee portions of the suspension area.
“Today’s announcement is the first step in a process that will deliver the relief our hardworking farmers in southwest Georgia need to remain successful,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “I look forward to continued progress on this program that will ensure we remain good stewards of our natural resources while empowering our state’s number one industry to continue putting food on the tables of Georgians and those far beyond our state.”
Agribusiness is Georgia’s No. 1 industry and water is critically important for its continued success. Since 2012, no new or modified agricultural water withdrawal permits from surface water and the Floridan aquifer have been issued. This permitting suspension was put in place to make sure that surface water and the aquifer were not overconsumed.
“A lot of work has been done since 2012. From the metering program, we have strengthened our technical understanding of surface water and groundwater in the Lower Flint,” said Director Jeff Cown. “The Regional Water Plans and Habitat Conservation planning supports existing water users, including farmers, and sets the stage to make room for new ones. It is time to start moving forward.”
Each year, EPD evaluates this suspension. In 2023, EPD recommended a limited modification to allow some frost protection permitting in portions of the suspension area. EPD also recommended continuing to explore limited modifications to the suspension.
From this initial exploration, EPD identified the opportunity to allow new and modified surface water withdrawal permits in the Suwannee and Ochlockonee portions of the suspension area. This modification is supported by assessments that additional surface water withdrawal from those areas would have no impact on stream flows in the Flint basin.
This modification only applies to surface water withdrawals. Agricultural water withdrawal permitting from the Floridan aquifer remains suspended in the Suwannee and Ochlockonee portions of the suspension area.
EPD will continue to evaluate the 2012 suspension to identify additional opportunities for modification. That evaluation includes a stakeholder process, with meetings being held throughout the affected area to solicit feedback on potential modifications to the 2012 suspension. The meeting schedule is:
April 18th – Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center, 2500 E. Shotwell St., Bainbridge GA 39818
May 23rd – Candy Room, 125 Pine Ave., Albany GA 31701
June 13th – Goolsby Farm Supply, 2943 Callis Rd., Dawson GA 39842
Meeting registration will open at 9:30 A.M., and the meetings will start at 10 A.M.
More information about agricultural water withdrawal and the 2012 suspension is available at EPD’s website: https://epd.georgia.gov/water-withdrawal-permitting.