The regulation of water withdrawals from groundwater (wells) was established by in the Groundwater Use Act of 1972. But the regulation of withdrawals from surface water was not covered by that Act. As the population growth in north Georgia began to accelerate in the 1970’s, the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) saw the need to protect existing and future water uses and to protect instream flows by proper allocation of surface water. EPD worked with the House Natural Resources Committee to develop and pass amendments to the Water Quality Control Act to regulate the withdrawal of surface water 1977.
The surface water amendments passed in 1977 cover basically any surface water withdrawal of over 100,000 gallons per day (in any given month) for non-agricultural purposes. The amendments require a permit to be issued by EPD for such withdrawals. It authorizes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to adopt rules governing surface water permits and it authorizes EPD to enforce the permits.
These amendments are the backbone of Georgia’s water management program and are the basis of Georgia’s regulation of water resources. The amendments have since been amplified by DNR rules. These amendments have allowed DNR to establish instream flow protection requirements which distinguish Georgia from our neighboring states and require the identification of alternate water sources for use during droughts (reservoirs). These amendments form the basis of Georgia’s water planning, water conservation and outdoor use restrictions.
The original 1977 act language is similar but not identical to that in the current code (as of 2012), OCGA 12-5-31.