Georgia Water Coalition

The Georgia Water Coalition has made remarkable progress as a powerful advocate for protecting the state's waters.


Photo © Craig Tanner

SELC: A Leader in Protecting Georgia's Waters

The Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) was founded in 2002 by SELC, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Georgia Conservancy and Georgia Wildlife Federation. Since then, the Coalition has become a powerful advocate at all levels across the state for protecting rivers, lakes, groundwater, wetlands and other water resources.

Now with more than 250 member groups, the Coalition has made remarkable progress toward its goal of maintaining Georgia’s waters as a public resource, and in bringing about comprehensive water resource planning and management that ensure a clean and plentiful supply of water while protecting aquatic habitat and recreational values.

Past Victories

The GWC and its members have won numerous legislative victories over the ensuing years protecting drinking water supplies, securing drought management planning, encouraging conservation, improving emergency responses, and securing tax credits for wise resource stewardship. SELC and GWC partners regularly fight attempted rollbacks to water protections around the state, from individual projects to statewide legislation and regulations.  

In 2003, the Coalition helped defeat legislation that would have privatized Georgia’s water resources and led to the marketing and sale of water to the highest bidder. In 2004, the Coalition helped secure legislation that mandated state-wide water planning for the first time in Georgia.

SELC and our GWC partners succeeded in getting a bill passed in the 2014 Georgia legislative session requiring the Environmental Protection Division to improve its emergency response program. As a result, EPD has increased its emergency response staff and is now legally required to quickly and appropriately respond to emergencies threatening state waters. The Coalition also led efforts in fixing a problematic bill regarding the Flint River in Georgia, removing language that would have altered basic riparian rights in the state.  In 2015, SELC worked with the Coalition to pass legislation that restores buffers on Georgia’s coastal marshlands and to remove loopholes before the law was passed.

Current Action

The GWC continues to engage in the state's water planning process to promote sound policies that accommodate human needs and the environment. Directing the legal components of the Coalition’s work, SELC’s focus is to ensure that any regulatory framework includes protections for in-stream flow and aquatic biodiversity along with requirements for conservation, among other considerations. We are also evaluating the necessity of proposed reservoir projects and keeping an eye on Tri-State Water Wars developments.

As a result of years of work by SELC and our GWC partners to push the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to require more study of reservoir impacts and alternatives before issuing permits, the Corps suspended review of permit applications that would have authorized four unnecessary reservoirs around Atlanta. The GWC will continue to monitor attempts to revive these projects in the future, in addition to any new reservoir proposals.  

Future Plans

The Coalition's attention now turns to improving stream buffer protections and groundwater safeguards through legislation and regulations. The GWC will also coordinate a statewide effort to strengthen safeguards for numerous stream and river segments by demonstrating that those waterways are used for swimming, paddling and other recreational activities protected under state law, and that these protections should not be limited to just fishing.

In addition, the Coalition is working to improve Georgia’s laws and regulations for the handling and disposal of coal ash at electric utilities and in municipal solid waste landfills. The Coalition will also continue its involvement in implementation of the Georgia Statewide Water Management Plan at the regional and local level, with a goal to ensure the plan is fully funded and properly executed to protect waterways across Georgia.

Filed Under

This Case Affects

Attorneys on Case