Georgia Water/Policy/Issues/Instream Flow

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Rights of Instream Flow Users in Georgia

Description of the issue[edit]

When streams are used for water supply, water must taken (withdrawn) from the stream, thereby leaving less water in the stream to provide for the instream flow uses. The instream flow uses include the following (each will be linked to page describing that instream use in Georgia):

When water is withdrawn from a river, but only partially returned (usually as treated wastewater), the downstream flow is reduced by an amount called the "consumptive use" (withdrawal amount minus the returned amount). The reduction in streamflow will affect all of the instream flow users below the withdrawal point, with impacts to individual users ranging from insignificant to major, according to the type of stream user and the amount and timing of the streamflow reduction.

Definition: The instream flow users are those who use the stream without withdrawing water from the stream.

Policy Issue: The policy issue for the State is: What are the rights of the instream flow users? What policy should the State have for allowing an increased consumptive water withdrawal from a stream, with the corresponding reduction in the instream flow which impacts all the existing (and future) instream flow users?

Georgia's present policy on instream flow[edit]

Georgia's present policy on instream flow, called the "interim minimum stream flow protection policy", was adopted by the Georgia Board of Natural Resources effective April 1, 2001.[1]

Basically, the policy reserves a minimum streamflow for use by all instream flow users. The Georgia EPD implements the policy by requiring applicants for new (filed after March 30, 2001) non-farm water withdrawal permits to at all times "pass the lesser of the monthly 7Q10 or the inflow at the withdrawal point" (and in some cases, plus a non-depletable flow -- an amount sufficient to serve the pre-existing permitted downstream withdrawal uses). The monthly 7Q10 streamflow is a drought streamflow statistic "that reflects the lowest seven-day running average of a stream's flow for each calendar month with a recurrence frequency of once in ten years." | p.28

The policy for limiting streamflow withdrawals, in order to protect the reserved instream flow, applies only to surface water allocation water requests made after March 30, 2001 by non-farm applicants on rivers which are not highly influenced by a federal reservoir. The policy does not limit the withdrawals of the following: (a) small withdrawers (each less than 100,000 gallons per day), (b) "reasonable use" for agricultural water users, (c) any agricultural water use for capacity in place by 1988, whether reasonable or not, and (d) any water withdrawals used to pay off revenue certificates or general obligation bonds from 1977 or prior. It is possible for these types of unrestricted water withdrawals to completely drain the streamflow during a drought.

History of Georgia's present policy[edit]

Desired features of a "Good" policy[edit]

Alternative policies on instream flow[edit]

Alternative 1 - (name of policy here)[edit]

  • Advantages -
  • Disadvantages -

Alternative 2 - (name of policy here)[edit]

  • Advantages -
  • Disadvantages -


  1. Biagi, John, Jerry Ziewitz, Brian Richter, Bob Scanlon, Billy Turner, Kathryn Hatcher. 2005. State Water Policy Alternatives for Instream and Downstream Flow Protection, in: Proceedings of the 2005 Georgia Water Resources Conference, pp. 270-278.
  2. | Water Issues White Paper, Board of Natural Resources, State of Georgia, May 2001, pp. 26-31.
  3. Caldwell, Nap. 2005. The Evolution of Georgia's Instream Flow Policy, in: Proceedings of the 2005 Georgia Water Resources Conference, pp. 252-254.
  4. Evans, James W. and Russell H. England, 1995. A Recommended Method to Protect Instream Flows in Georgia, Georgia Department of Natural Resources - Wildlife Resources Division.
  5. | Georgia Water Coalition's | Instream Flow Fact Sheet