Water withdrawal can have detrimental impacts on our creeks and river. Georgia law allows for withdrawal of 100,000 gallons of water per day without a permit. If a permit is not required, there are no monitoring requirements associated with the withdrawal. For this reason, water withdrawal permits are critical to the protection of instream flows, aquatic habitat, and water quality. Such a large and unchecked daily withdrawal can have devastating impacts on South River, due to its size and base flow, particularly during dry weather. Georgia’s multi-year droughts reduce the amount of water in the river, particularly in its upper reaches where source streams are small.
An additional problem with water withdrawal is that the vast majority of water taken out of our creeks and South River is not returned. For example, Sugar Creek Golf and Tennis Center in DeKalb County is permitted to remove the maximum daily withdrawal for irrigation purposes but virtually none of the water flows back into the river. Returning water to its source is critical to maintaining adequate instream flows necessary for aquatic life and creek and river health.
In 1998, Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper secured a precedent-setting judicial decision regarding the standing of public interest groups, such as SRWA, to challenge water withdrawal permits. As an ongoing activity, SRWA monitors proposed withdrawal permits and permit modifications in the South River watershed.