Shafer takes on Water Issues

Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth), author of Zero Based Budgeting, has a new bill out that targets Georgia’s water problems. It seeks to fund repairs of leaky water infrastructure.

“Millions of gallons of water are lost each day to aging or inadequately maintained infrastructure — as much 18% of the surface water withdrawn for public use,” Shafer said.  “Senate Bill 311, the Water Conservation and Savings Act, provides a way to pay for repairs without resorting to forced tax increases or unfunded mandates.”

“Unfortunately, because many local governments hold water withdrawal permits for more water than their citizens need, there is a little incentive for them to make repairs,” Shafer said.  “At the same time, many growing counties are waiting years to obtain withdrawal permits of their own”

Shafer’s legislation creates a new funding mechanism for repairing water infrastructure. It would allow a local government seeking a water withdrawal permit to help pay the costs of repairing the infrastructure of another local government within the same river basin, provided that the amount of water saved from the repairs is reallocated from the permit, as well as the government receiving the repairs to the permit of the government paying for the repairs.

“The system would be voluntary,” Shafer said.  “No local government willing to repair its own infrastructure would be required to accept help from another local government.”

Shafer said the bill creates an option for funding repairs that does not involve forced taxes, unfunded mandates or even an increase in the amount of water permitted to be withdrawn.

Shafer’s bill has been endorsed by the Georgia Conservancy and Georgia Conservation Voters.

Georgia’s water problem does not need to be forgotten. Finding workable solutions without levying taxes will be a challenge for Georgia’s Legislature during these economic times which already require budget cuts. Shafer’s bill appears to improve the use of water resources without the requirement of additional revenue sources. That should give it a good chance of passing when so few other bills can address a real problem without real money, too.


  1. No Fan of Baseball says:

    Demonstrating why this man needs to step up and do the right thing and run for Lt. Governor of Georgia.

  2. No Fan of Baseball says:

    Actually, I’ll just add, whatever he runs for – in terms of higher office – will be good for Georgia.

  3. AubieTurtle says:

    It’s a very interesting idea but I have to wonder if this is going to be a lot like Sonny’s solution to traffic woes: sychronizing traffic lights. Sometimes what sounds like a great idea doesn’t end up having a great degree of effect.

    Since I know absolutely nothing about how much water these repair can save nor if there actually will be any governments who will take part in the plan, I can’t say it is rubbish but I’m highly skeptical. But when it comes down to it, I don’t see how it can hurt as long as long one views it as some kind of silver bullet solution. It’s certainly better than losing court battle after court battle while promising “we’ll win the next one”.

  4. Mozart says:

    Sounds good. But, wasn’t this the guy who declared last year that Tennessee stole our water and demanded they give it back to us? As I recall, he actually offered either a bill or a resolution to fight for the state line to move north a mile and allow us to sink a pipe into the Tennessee River.

  5. GOPGeorgia says:

    Considering that Tennessee sued Mississippi to recognize their state line down south about a mile to use the 35th parallel as a border, I think a case for us to recognize the state line up north to the 35th parallel holds water. (pun intended.)

    • Mozart says:

      Possibly. But, they actually sued. Shafer just pounded a podium for theatrical effect. BIG difference in procedure.

        • Mozart says:

          The public’s not really paying attention. They never have paid any attention to the legislature. His cause was never going to happen if that was his purpose.

          They should have quietly filed a lawsuit in federal court. That would have been the intellectually honest way to do it, not via political theatrics.

          • GOPGeorgia says:

            A few thoughts.

            Georgia was admitted to the Union in 1788, and Congress fixed the 35th parallel as its northern border. In 1790, North Carolina ceded its western lands to the United States in exchange for the forgiveness of certain debts. The former North Carolina lands, bounded on the south by the 35th parallel, became the State of Tennessee on June 1, 1796.Congress thus created Tennessee and specified the 35th parallel as its southern boundary. In 1818, Georgia commissioned James Carmack and Tennessee appointed James S. Gaines to locate the 35th parallel and to fix the boundary between the two states. We now know this survey to be inaccurate. The Tennessee Code states, “The boundary line between this state and the state of Georgia begins at a point of the true parallel of the thirty-fifth degree, as found by James Carmack, mathematician on the part of the state of Georgia, and James S. Gaines, mathematician on the part of this state. Georgia Code still places the state’s northern border at the actual 35th parallel.

            Georgia made efforts in the 1890s, 1905, 1915, 1922, 1941, 1947 and 1971 to “resolve” the dispute, but each time Tennessee did little or nothing to achieve any change.[15] Georgia even formed a borderline committee in 1947 and authorized the committee to look into the matter and the Attorney General of Georgia to bring suit to the Supreme Court if the committee could not resolve the dispute. Yet the border remained the same.

            Article III, Section 12 of the Constitution extends the judicial power to controversies between two or more states and to controversies between a state and citizens of another state. It specifies that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases in which a state shall be a party.

            In Georgia v. South Carolina, a border dispute that involved the location of the state line in the Savannah River, the process from original petition to final decision by the Supreme Court took 13 years.

  6. aquaman says:

    Great idea if you don’t know anything about municipal water systems (I guess). I don’t know where he got his figures but a lot of systems lose way more than 18%. The statement about lack of incentive is way off if you’re talking about surface water (and he is) because of the cost of treatment. Finally leak detection and repair is very costly and not predictable i.e. X dollars spent doesn’t always result in Y gallons saved. Even though this is proposed as voluntary I suspect someone will have to be paid to quantify results and determine how much the paying entity gets. Sounds like more bureaucracy for sure.

    • benevolus says:

      Aquaman, perhaps you can help me with something that has been bothering me for a long time.
      Isn’t most water we use returned to the system? I know it takes some water to make paper and other industrial things, but I would think the vast majority of water goes right back into the ground or some river. Is the problem that in the process we transfer it from one watershed system to another? In other words, is the problem that Atlanta sits on a ridge- a division between watersheds?

      • aquaman says:


        Much of the water used by municipalities and industry is returned to a stream as treated waste water. The percentage varies of course based on the use by industry or the infrastructure of the city and other factors like amount of outdoor watering for example. Where groundwater is the source that water isn’t directly returned to the aquifer but rather also discharged to a stream (usually there are other methods of handling waste water). In Georgia water used for irrigation is considered 100% consumed. We do have some issues with withdrawing from one basin and discharging into another but that isn’t what SB311 is addressing. The Senator is looking to capture water lost through leaks in the infrastructure. While it sounds reasonable I think putting this idea into practice would be very difficult and the results disappointing. And nothing is free; someone will have to determine amount of loss, evaluate the plan to recover the loss, measure the amount recovered, etc.

        • benevolus says:

          OK thanks. I just have trouble believing that the downstream shortage is mostly due to evaporation. It’s hard to formulate a good plan going forward without knowing what the cause of the problem is.

          • ByteMe says:

            Downstream shortage? Even during the worst part of the drought, the Florida mussels didn’t die or up and leave and the nuclear reactor that Alabama complained about didn’t get less water.

      • Changeling says:

        Aquaman: Data on water loss, unbilled water, etc. for water providers in the greater Atlanta area is provided in the Metropolitam North Georgia Water Planning District’s (MNGWPD) 2009 Water Supply and Water Conservtaion Plan on page 3-3 ( A number of the water prioviders in the area have water losses in excess of 20%. Daily water loss for the Greater Atlanta area is in excess of 100 million gallons per day according to MNGWPD information.

  7. aquaman says:

    Shafer is a pretty thoughtful guy so I’m going to pull up SB311 to see if there is more substance there than was evident in Tyler’s post.

  8. WorkerBee says:

    I like this idea. Not every government solution requires a tax increase. We need more of these guys thinking creatively, outside the box.

  9. fastball says:

    He looks like Peter Griffin from “The Family Guy.”

    As to Aubie’s point that it may sound great but end up not doing much, I think we should ask our legislators to pass it and find out. It shouldn’t cost much if anything to administer if nobody uses it, but it does have good potential.

    And it is great to see at least one Republican talking about conservation rather than simply building a lot more reservoirs.

    As far as the fact that no lawsuit has been filed against Tennessee yet, I don’t believe a Senator would have standing to sue on behalf of the State of Georgia. The acutal filing of a lawsuit it mor elikely in the hands of the Governor and/or Attorney General of GA.

  10. Technocrat says:

    That’s it the Congress can pass a Federal water removal tax per gallon removed from rivers, streams, lakes, and wells.
    People should be charged for not saving the water that falls on their property.
    5 cent per gallon for health care. [$1800 per year for small household no outside watering or pools]
    Whenever Power companies and cities receive something for free they don’t respect it.

  11. fastball says:

    Technocrat said “Whenever Power companies and cities receive something for free they don’t respect it.”

    It’s worth noting that Georgia Power is by far the largest user of water in the State of Ga. And some of it is returned to rivers, but some evaporates.

  12. Technocrat says:

    Charge ALL users and use the tax collected to build new reservoirs.
    Maybe someone knows whether nat gas turbine use less water than coal fired, nuclear.
    The question is how much will GA Power use [lost to evaporation cooling non recycled steam] after future conversions?
    I believe the new Atlanta conversion will be 4X greater capacity, so what will their impact be on Chattahochee?

    Whether Power or Water bill increases, there will be increases.

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