014 Shinecast: Water Policy, Water Use

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We talk water use, water policy and water rights with Mitch Reid, program director for the Alabama Rivers Alliance, in this week’s episode of the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast.

The focus of this episode is how water policy and a comprehensive water resources management plan helps to ensure everyone who needs water has reasonable access. Water uses include drinking and residential use, agriculture irrigation, recreation (like fishing and canoeing), tourism, conservation, manufacturing and power generation.

We’re also joined by Adam Johnston, Alliance coordinator for the Alabama Rivers Alliance, who shares information about upcoming ARA-sponsored events where citizens can learn more about Alabama’s efforts to develop a statewide water policy and how to provide input into the policy-making process.

Alabama is blessed with water resources but, historically speaking, this abundance has led to poor use of this precious resource. What’s seemingly “everywhere” is taken for granted, wasted or abused.

The increasing frequency of droughts and the rapid growth in competing demands for water has finally brought the issue of water to the forefront of discussions among some Alabama policymakers and business industry leaders.

That’s because protection and appropriate management of Alabama’s water resources could be the key to the state’s economic future.


Mitch Reid, Alabama Rivers Alliance, speaks at Alabama Water Rally, March 2012

Reid talks about research that has shown that, through irrigation, Alabama farmers could beat out Kansas in corn production.

Business leaders and business development advocates point out that a stable supply of water is necessary to continue growing Alabama’s manufacturing base and this stability is really dependent on a statewide water policy.

Alabama’s abundant aquatic life in its rivers, streams and Gulf depends on clean and flowing rivers. Without adequate in-stream flows, the state’s recreational and commercial fishing operations are in jeopardy.

Alabama currently operates under the common law system of riparian water rights, which means that water rights belong to the person who owns the land along the river or stream.  These rights are subject to the rights of others who own land downstream that is adjacent to the stream or river. When there is a conflict between riparian owners, the courts decide how to allocate the water rights.

This law review article by Prof. Heather Elliott does a great job of explaining water law in Alabama.

In April 2012, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a letter (PDF) ordering several state agencies with water-related authority to join together to develop a statewide water policy by the end of 2013. The Alabama Water Agencies Working Group has released its first report toward this end. Now is the time for state citizens to offer input into the policy-making process.

The working group member agencies are:

  • Office of Water Resources (a division of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs)
  • Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM)
  • Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
  • Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries
  • Geological Survey of Alabama
Weeks Bay near Fairhope Alabama Kayaker in Fog Copyright 2012 Sheree Martin

Weeks Bay, March 2012

The Alabama Rivers Alliance is hosting events around the state during 2013, including the Alabama Water Rally at Camp McDowell in March. Details can be found at the Alabama Rivers Alliance website.

A video version of this interview with Mitch Reid and Adam Johnston and individual clips will be made available soon via YouTube. I’ll update this post with a link, as soon as editing is complete.

Disclosure: I’m a member of the Board of Directors of the Alabama Rivers Alliance.

What are your thoughts on water policy, water resources management? Does your state have a water resources management plan (most do)? How does it impact you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions about water policy, water resource management, water rights and the efforts to develop a statewide water policy in Alabama. Please leave your comments and questions in the comments section below.

Playing in surf on Alabama Gulf Coast Fort Morgan Copyright 2012 Sheree Martin


Alabama Water Policy Resources

Alabama Rivers Alliance

Alabama Water Agencies Working Group

Alabama Water Agencies Working Group Report to Gov. Bentley

Background articles addressing the topic: “Is water the new oil”

“Is clean water the new oil” from The Fletcher School at Tufts University

Forbes magazine (May 3, 2012): “Why water shortages may leave energy producers dying of thirst”

Rolling Stone (July 7, 2011): “Why water is the new oil”



About Sheree

Change Catalyst, Idea Explorer, Dot-Connector, Square Peg