Members of a water planning council will gather Jan. 26 in Dawsonville to work on a regional plan that could guide the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s operation and vision for the area.
The meeting will include representatives from Dawson and 17 other counties that share resources for the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Tennessee river basins, as well as the Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge and Piedmont aquifers.
The gathering is one of several planned statewide this year to collect input for a water development and conservation plan that will assess resources, future water needs and best management practices.
The EPD will use the guidelines to determine permits and loans for water projects in the future.
The all-day meeting, which is open to the public, begins at 9 a.m. in Appalachian Community Bank’s meeting facility, 28 Main St., in Dawsonville.
Local members of the Coosa-North Georgia Water Planning Council plan to attend the gathering, including Mike Berg and Pat Gober.
“We’re trying to figure out where the water is most critical,” Gober said. “We’ve got a big problem, and we’ve got to solve it some way.”
As water talks continue at the local and state level, a potential regional solution that emerged from Dawson County has remained on the radar.
As recently as last month, the possibility of building a 2,000-acre reservoir was mentioned in an assessment by a statewide task force of business, community and elected leaders and conservation organizations.
Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Water Contingency Task Force, which seeks to address Georgia’s water issues in the wake of a federal judge’s ruling last summer, made public the final list of recommendations Dec. 22.
The local project on the list, Shoal Creek Reservoir, could provide as much as 100 million gallons of water per day that could be sold to Atlanta and other nearby cities and counties.
Atlanta currently owns the property, about 10,000 forested acres along the Etowah River, which a private developer and the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority want to purchase.
Brooke Anderson, general manager of the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority, said the plan has been discussed for years, but a ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson “radically changed the whole dynamic, schedule and urgency of the project.”
Magnuson ruled in July that metro Atlanta illegally tapped Lake Lanier — which is fed by the Chattahoochee River — for drinking water. He gave the region three years to ink a water-sharing deal with Alabama and Florida, which also depend on the river.
Future water needs for Dawson County alone could be addressed through another EWSA-initiated reservoir plan.
During periods of heavy rain, the proposed Russell Creek Reservoir would pump water from the Etowah River into Russell Creek.
Anderson said authority officials determined the reservoir could meet the 17.5 million gallons per day that Dawson County is projected to need by 2050.
The authority currently pulls 5.5 million gallons per day from the Etowah River, which is the maximum amount allowed without a reservoir.
Anderson said the authority is “very close” to getting a reservoir permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We haven’t encountered anything in the permitting that would give us any heartburn or the corps any heartburn,” he said. “We’re just right there.
“I would hope we’ll have that permit in our hands in the next six months.”